Thursday, 24 July 2008

The Human Rights Party organizes a Buddhist Ceremony

Cambodge Soir

In order to free any individuals who were forced to take an oath, the HRP directors organized on Tuesday July 22, a religious ceremony. It also aimed at improving the HRP members’ bonds.

The Ceremony was held ay the Party headquarter in Phnom Penh, attended by the HRP’s most prominent candidates Pen Sovan, Kéo Remy, Son Soubert and Keat Sokun, its president, Kem Sokha, and all the party candidates for the parliamentary elections. Numerous militants also attended, as did ordinary citizens concerned with forced oath issues.

This ceremony was divided into two parts. The First was to free any Cambodian citizens from any oath they would have to take under constraint to vote for any indicated party. “Such an oath is difficult to renege for the one who took it, that’s the reason why I insisted in organizing this ceremony, to free those people with the help of the sacred spiritual objects’ force” explained Kem Sokha while joining his hands. During the event HRP members did not mention the political party abusing these practices.

The second part of the ceremony was solely dedicated to HRP members. The candidates were to publicly take an oath of fidelity so that in case of victory they would not defect to more powerful political parties. The candidates and their president then took the oath in front of monks, claiming fidelity to their party and if elected promised to faithfully serve the interests of their fellow citizens.

According to Mao Veasna, head of HRP youth, these oath practices are part of Cambodian culture: “ 95% of Cambodians are Buddhist and put values in these oaths, even when they are taken with Brahmanic rituals.”

“ This ceremony is for all the country’s citizens and free all of those who had to act against their will. This ceremony remains powerful until July 26, the day before the election in case some individuals could again be forced” added Kem Sokha.

Finally the HRP president appealed to two other opposition parties, the Sam Rainsy party and the Norodom Ranariddh Party to establish co-operation between the election observers. Kem Sokha feels that it is important to co-ordinate the activities of the opposition parties’ observers to better monitor the counting of the vote proceedings once the vote is over on July 27. Kem Sokha added that he will submit an official request in writing to the leaders of those two parties before July 25.

Rong Chhun calls for travelling fees not to increase during elections

Cambodge Soir

The chairman of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, Rong Chhun, appealed to taxi drivers and bus companies not to increase their fares as workers travel to vote in their native villages on July 27.

The Cambodian Confederation of Unions includes the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association and the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC).

In a letter sent this Wednesday to taxi drivers and bus companies, Rong Chhun asked them to keep prices as normal so that migrant workers can vote in their villages. “These parliamentary elections are very interesting. When one elects a fair leader who looks after the general interest, who is not corrupted and can prevent price hikes, then one can work better. Conversely we would face difficulties if taxis and other means of transportation were to become a financial hindrance for the workers”, wrote the opposition friendly Rong Chhun.

Early this month CPP-friendly unions have asked Phnom Penh’s governor to take action with the city’s taxi drivers and buses companies in order to prevent any price increases during the elections. They agreed and will not increase their fares. This letter serves as a reminder for all road transportation stakeholders.

Where is the Thai-Cambodian border dispute to go?

July 24, 2008

The Thai-Cambodian border dispute on the controversial area around the Preah Vihear Temple, an 11th-century-built Hindu temple which was historically claimed sovereignty by both countries, is now puzzling the outside, though it is never a new issue between the two countries.

On Thursday, the United Nations Security Council, at the request of Cambodia, will discuss the dispute between Thailand and Cambodia in its emergency session. However, the Thai government also has sent a letter to the UN, expressing the wish to discuss and solve the problem in a bilateral way.

With the soldiers of both countries now engaged in a stand-off at the border around the Preah Vihear mountain, is the situation dangerous to the extent of an "imminent state of war" as claimed by Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong?

"I don't think a war could happen, since we believe both the countries could solve the problem in a peaceful way," Apichart Bunsak, a Thai army captain based in the disputed area, told Xinhua outside a camp.

Now, fearing possible military confrontation, the Cambodia authority has closed the temple, which the International Court of Justice in 1962 ruled to belong to Cambodia. While the Thai military men has sealed off the area below the temple, which is the only practical access to the temple since the Cambodian side of the temple is a cliff.

Reports said there are an estimated 2,000 troops, from each side, stationed at the border around the temple, about 500 kilometers north-east of Bangkok. But according to some Thai local media reports, rumors now circulating among Cambodians by cellphone short SMS messages said that up to 10,000 Thai soldiers have gathered, patrolling and beefing up security along the Thai-Cambodian border. Local newspaper also showed some pictures of heavy weapons which have been dispatched to border by the Thai army.

A Thai military official who asking not to be named dismissed the rumors about the number of Thai soldiers along the border. He said Thai army only sent several hundreds of soldiers there, while the Cambodia has a total of several thousands soldiers along the border.

However, a Cambodia military officer told Xinhua that the Thai soldiers' number now based in the disputed area is more than that of Cambodia.

Anyway, in the disputed area, no signal of intensity was found on Thursday, though armed force of both sides were stationed there and heavy weapons such as rocket launchers were also seen from both side. They sometimes smiled or chat with each other despite different languages.

Gen. Jiradaj Kotcharat, Assistant Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army, who is during a visit to the disputed area on Thursday, said the number of soldiers is not a main issue since both sides have already promised not to use force to solve the border dispute during Monday's special meeting of the Thai-Cambodian General Border Committee (GBC), though the meeting failed to reach any breakthrough except for the oral no-force promises. Therefore, both the countries have to maintain the force along the border, waiting for future assignments.

The dispute over Preah Vihear flared up again earlier this month after Cambodia applied the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for listing the temple compound, without the disputed 4.6 square kilometers around it, as a World Heritage Site. The application was approved on July 7, despite Thai opposition.

Thailand has suggested Cambodia apply for listing the temple and some surrounding establishments as a World Heritage Site under the names of both countries, but Cambodia was awarded the honor on its own as the UNESCO based its judgment on the ruling of the International Court.

Shortly after that, three Thais, including a Buddhist monk, were briefly detained by Cambodian soldiers after surreptitiously crossing into the disputed border area on July 15. The trio were released the same day but refused to leave the disputed area adjoining the temple complex.

During Monday's border meeting, both countries cited legislation and legal technicalities as main obstacles in reaching any agreement on the issue. But local analysts said they need more time as both the governments are now at a sensitive time as Cambodia is having a general election on Sunday, and Thailand's coalition government is preparing a reshuffle if not an step-down under pressure.

After the newly-fixed governments of both sides are born, more talks are expected to be held between them. Then, the military stand-off could be eased.

But another possibility is that the Cambodia government could pass the issue to the International Court again as it did 46 years ago. As to it, Thailand's Supreme Commander Boonsang Niampradit on Wednesday called on Thai leaders to consider that scenario carefully.

He said the Thai leaders should be extra careful about this as there were lessons learned in the past. But he hinted that Thailand has the right to decide whether to go to the court.

Moreover, Thai ambassador to the UN Don Pramudwinai said earlier that the government would wait and make its new plan to solve the issue after the decision of the 15-member-meeting of Security Council on Thursday.


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Cambodian Minister: Both sides show restraint as border standoff continues

PHNOM PENH, July 24 (Xinhua) -- Both Cambodian and Thailand have kept maximum restraint, as their troop deployment at the disputed Preah Vihear area rose to about 800 in the ninth day of bilateral military standoff, said a senior official here Thursday.

"The Cambodian government hasn't taken any measure to tell people to boycott Thai products and the Thai neither. People from both sides do their business as normal. The situation at the border area is calm. We are only confronted near the Preah Vihear Temple," said Cambodian government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith.

The current spat arose from the internal affairs of Thai politicians, as the extremists created the dispute and wanted to cash in on it to topple the current Thai government, he said.

Meanwhile, the minister insisted that Thai troops have violated Cambodian sovereignty and asked Thailand to go to the International Court of Justice again to clarify the possession of the land near the Preah Vihear Temple.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded the 11- century classic Khmer-style Preah Vihear Temple, together with the land it occupies, to Cambodia.

In addition, the minister said that Cambodia had asked the UN Security Council to have emergency meeting to help solve the border tension and Hor Nam Hong, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, will possibly go to UN to represent the relevant documents.

"Thai troops invaded Cambodia soil. They have to withdraw from Cambodia and make the status quo as prior to in July 15, 2008," he said.

The border between the two countries now runs 800 km with only 73 demarcation posts and the map was drawn and signed in 1904 and 1907 by France, as protectorate of Cambodia, together with Siam (now Thailand), he added.

Earlier Wednesday, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) stated that it failed to mediate between the two ASEAN members, saying that it would adversely affect the regional organization.

The UN Security Council is reportedly to convene an urgent meeting Thursday to find peaceful solution to the ongoing stalemate.

On Monday, bilateral top-level talks in Thailand failed to reach any agreement to end the military face-off.

On July 7, the temple was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO's World Heritage Committee.

On July 15, three Thai protesters trespassed the border to reclaim the temple, but were immediately arrested.

Thai troops then came in to fetch them, thus triggering standoff with Cambodian soldiers there. Military force was then built up on daily basis until the current scale.

Editor: Bi Mingxin

Cambodia insists troops will remain near disputed temple site for now

The Associated Press
Published: July 24, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: The Cambodian government said Thursday it will not back down from a demand that hundreds of Thai troops leave disputed land near a historic temple, contending that its Southeast Asian neighbor is trying to "permanently occupy" the site.

But Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith also insisted that his country's military will do everything it can to avoid a clash with Thai soldiers stationed a few hundred yards (meters) from the 11th century Preah Vihear temple near their border.

"We cannot soften our position because this is a violation of our territorial integrity," he told a news conference. "Thailand is trying to turn its aggression into a permanent occupation."

Military tensions between the two countries over 1.8 square miles (4.6 square kilometers) of land intensified earlier this month after UNESCO approved a Cambodian application to have the temple designated a World Heritage Site.

Thailand sent troops to the border July 15 after anti-government demonstrators attacked Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's government for supporting Cambodia's application. They claim the temple's new status will undermine Thailand's claim to land around the temple. Cambodia followed suit with its own troop deployment.

Cambodia has since taken its complaint to the U.N. Security Council after talks on Monday with Thailand failed to solve the crisis. The Security Council is expected to take up the matter soon.

"We are worried by the situation and by the potential tension due to the situation raising around the temple," France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said Wednesday. "Everybody was in favor of discussing the situation."

Thailand wants the dispute solved bilaterally. On Wednesday the country's U.N. ambassador, Don Pramudwinai, accused Cambodia of bringing the quarrel before the Security Council because "the Cambodian target is not only Preah Vihear but the entire common border."

Cambodian says some 4,000 troops from both countries are massed in the area around Preah Vihear. Thailand says it has 400 troops in the area and that Cambodia has 1,700.

Don said Cambodia was trying to force Thailand to accept a French colonial map's demarcation of the border.

Thailand relies on a different map drawn up later with American technical assistance, but accepts a ruling by the International Court of Justice that awarded the disputed temple to Cambodia in 1962.

Singapore: 'Asean Needs To Find Ways To Resolve Disputes'

MySinchew 2008.07.24

SINGAPORE: It has been a trying year for Singapore's chairmanship of Asean.

Last year, the Republic had to cope with two crises related to Burma--the country's bloody political crackdown in September and the aid controversy following Cyclone Nargis.

This week, Singapore had to cope with an even bigger crisis--the tense military stand-off between Thailand and Cambodia over the Preah Vihear temple.

Earlier this month, the United Nations recognised the temple as a World Heritage site. This infuriated Thai nationalists and led to more than 500 Thai troops facing off against at least 1,000 Cambodian soldiers.

The Burma crises sorely tested Asean's principle of non-interference. Now, the Thai-Cambodian spat has put into the spotlight one of the fundamental building blocks laid out in the Asean Charter: dispute settlement mechanisms.

Currently, Asean does not have any tried-and-tested mechanisms to address crises like the one between Thailand and Cambodia.

Rodolfo Severino, a former Asean secretary-general, said that disputes have historically been settled informally, with outside parties roped in to mediate.

Another recourse for disputes is the Treaty of Amity of Cooperation (TAC). The Treaty, which has been signed by all 10 Asean members and another 14 countries, requires signatories to renounce the use or threat of force and calls for the peaceful settlement of conflicts.

But critics argue that the TAC's High Council has never been convened.

"What Asean has tried to do is to see if Cambodia and Thailand would like to talk within the auspices of Asean, whether they use the troika, the Asean secretary-general or group of eminent persons," said Associate Professor Mely Caballero-Anthony of the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

"Cambodia has agreed to use Asean, but Thailand has said no, so that presents a problem," she added.

The Asean Charter is supposed to provide more formal mechanisms for dispute settlement.
Under Article 24, for example, some disputes can be referred to the TAC. Article 26 adds that unresolved disputes can be referred to the Asean Summit for a decision.

There are, however, two pressing problems associated with the mechanisms laid out in the Charter. For one, the Asean members in dispute have to agree to bring their case before Asean.

Professor Don Emmerson, a South-east Asian expert at Stanford University, said the fact that the TAC was not invoked by Thailand and Cambodia is an indictment of Asean's effectiveness as a conflict resolution body.

"The fact that TAC's High Council has never been convened, despite various incidents that might have resulted in that body's activation, is further evidence that when signatories have disputes they prefer to settle them outside the Treaty's terms," Prof Emmerson told The Straits Times.

M Severino disagrees. He argues that Asean members are not obligated to resort to Asean's auspices for dispute settlement.

"Neither the Charter or TAC obligates anybody to come to Asean for mediation," he said.
A second problem is associated with the speed of implementation of the Charter.

This week's Asean ministerial meetings have led to the establishment of a High Level Legal Experts Group that will, among other things, consider recommendations on such mechanisms.

This group, however, will submit their recommendations only at the next Asean Summit in Bangkok in December.

In the meantime, Asean members are encouraged to use the TAC as a conflict resolution instrument. The significance of the TAC will be underscored by the accession of North Korea, which is expected to sign the Treaty Thursday (24 July).

The establishment of TAC's central role would enable the bigger, 27-member Asean Regional Forum (ARF) to become less of a 'talk shop' and more of a body built to pre-empt any regional crises that may arise.

Professor Carl Thayer, a visiting fellow at the Strategic Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University, argues that Asean and the ARF still have a long way to go.

"The TAC has a minimal deterrent on countries that violate it. It's not going to deter a country that decides to use force. If the Thai-Cambodian situation escalates and national pride gets in the way of the TAC, national pride will trump it."

In short, no one can say that Asean's dispute settlement system is broken, since it is still emerging. But the drawing up of such a system in the coming months will need a lot of thoughtful circumspection and effective follow-up.

(By WILLIAM CHOONG/ The Straits Times/ ANN)

US wishes Thai-Cambodia dispute be settled within region

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation,

US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice suggested on Thursday the Thai-Cambodia border dispute should be solved within the region, not at the UN.

Rice said Thailand and Cambodia to allow bilateral talks to continue to find ways to solve their row over the Phreah Vihear temple, rather than pushing ti to the United Nations Security Council.

"It's (premature) right now because there are bilateral consultations going on and because Asean is taking a role," Rice said when asked if it's too rush for the UN body to talk.

"I made very clear to all my Asean colleagues that the US will be very much interested in fact guided by the regional assessment of what need to be done here," Rice said in a group interview with selective regional journalists in Singapore

Cambodia has requested the UN Security Council to include the issue of border stand off it has with Thailand into the agenda.

The UN postponed an inner consultation on the issue from initially Thursday to Friday, an official said.

The row came into international attention as it was talked during the series of ministerial meeting here in Singapore as Cambodia sought mediation from the regional grouping after General Border Committee failed on Monday to produce concrete outcome to end the conflict.

The US State Secretary said ministers at the meeting are concerned and aware of ways to the conflict peacefully.

UN Security Council undecided about hearing Thai-Cambodia case

BANGKOK, July 24 (TNA) - The United Nations Security Council remains divided on the Thai-Cambodian issue: the US opposes bringing the issue to the Security Council emergency session, while France backed Cambodia's move, and the other members prefer bilateral talks but want the Security Council to hear views from all parties concerned, according to the Thai envoy to UN.

The UN's top mechanism for responding to, or preventing, wars and likely military conflict, the Security Council is the top crisis agency in the international system.

Thai Permanent Representative to the United Nations Don Pramudwinai reported that the Security Council would consider how to address the tense military standoff between Cambodia and Thailand as the two neighbours mass more troops along their border.

The request for the emergency meeting was made by Cambodia after it claimed that Thailand had deployed large numbers of troops along Thai-Cambodian border.

French U.N. Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said on Wednesday the 15-nation council ``should meet as fast as possible'' based on Cambodia's request.

The dispute focuses on an area that both nations claim as their own, adjacent to Preah Vihear temple, an ancient Hindu edifice built at the height of the Khmer empire in the 11th century.

The World Court awarded the temple to Cambodia 46 years in 1962, in a decision that Thailand was reluctant to accept. Nevertheless the only practical access for visitors from either country, or from abroad, is through Thailand.

On July 8, the temple was added to the World Heritage List maintained by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Cambodia said earlier that it hoped the UN would help broker a solution to the standoff, which has essentially existed since 1962 when Thailand was essentially forced to accept a decision. Thailand holds that the two sides can resolve the matter without an outside mediator. (TNA)

Singapore: Singapore Criticizes Thailand-Cambodia Border Dispute, Says UN Unnecessary


SINGAPORE: Singapore's foreign minister said Thursday (4 July) a border dispute that recently flared between Thailand and Cambodia should never have become a problem, and it was unnecessary to take it to the U.N. Security Council.

Speaking as host of Southeast Asia's main security conference, George Yeo suggested that Cambodia's decision to refer the spat to the United Nations may have been premature. Yeo said the two countries should focus instead on promoting tourism and shelve their differences.

"It should not have to go to U.N. Security Council," Yeo said at a news conference following the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' annual security meeting. "It was not a problem, even a few weeks ago. It suddenly became a problem."

Yeo's comments came as the military standoff over the disputed border territory entered a second week, with Thailand accusing Cambodia of eyeing even more of its land and leaflets appearing in the Cambodian capital calling for a boycott of Thai goods.

On Tuesday (22 July), Cambodia asked the U.N. Security Council to intervene in the dispute over land near the ancient temple of Preah Vihear, warning that the two sides were at "an imminent state of war."

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said he had no choice but to appeal to the United Nations after discussions with Thailand on Monday failed to produce a breakthrough.

In a countermove Wednesday (23 July), Thailand's ambassador to the United Nations, Don Pramudwinai, said Cambodia was bringing the quarrel before the Security Council because "the Cambodian target is not only Preah Vihear but the entire common border."

The dispute over 1.8 square miles (4.6 square kilometers) of land near Preah Vihear escalated this month when UNESCO approved Cambodia's application to have the temple complex named a World Heritage Site.

Thailand sent troops to the border 15 July after anti-government demonstrators attacked Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's government for supporting Cambodia's UNESCO application. They claim the temple's new status will undermine Thailand's claim to land around the temple. Cambodia responded with its own troop deployment.

Cambodia is preparing to hold national elections on Sunday, with some commentators suggesting a resolution may be more likely after the polls when the media and political glare subsides.

Yeo reiterated ASEAN's call for restraint, saying: "Both sides are being watched."

"Both sides should promote tourism, and it's something we should enhance in Southeast Asia as a whole, not become a source of conflict between two countries," he said.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States will be guided by the views of Southeast Asian countries in assessing the border dispute if it comes up for mediation in the U.N. Security Council. (By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN/ AP)

Thai-Cambodia border row should not be pushed to UN : US

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talks to a group of selected journalists including Supalak about the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia on the sideline of Asean ministerial meeting in Singapore.

Q: Let me start first with the issue of Thai-Cambodian relation, I mean the border stand off. I wonder if the issue comes into you attention and whether it is premature for the two countries to go to discuss in the UNSC.

Rice: Yes, thank you. It is something subject to the discussion. We are concerned about it and aware of the way to solve it peacefully. My understanding is there are some efforts to solve it in bilateral discussion but the Asean is also taking a role of watching and tries to help if necessary. We continue to consult with regional states. It had not been taken up into the (UN Security) council yet although there is a request to. I made very clear to all my Asean colleagues that the US will be very much interested in fact guided by the regional assessment of what need to be done here.

Q: Do you think, it's premature to put it into the UNSC

Rice: Well, it's right now because there are bilateral consultations going on and because Asean taking a role but again we will be heavily guided by the views of countries in the region and I had a chance to raise to several of them.

Q : Madame: A question on Burma; I read somewhere you said earlier that you will push Asean to do more on the Burma. Have you done over the past days?

Rice: We have a very good discussion on Burma, of course Burmese foreign minister was there. The Asean charter aspires to rule of law, human right, development of pluralistic political system and integration into the international community state. And Burma does accept it, definitely accept it. When you have situation, you had with the cyclone where days and weeks go by with international community literally sitting off shore France, UK and US ready to help but the junta refused to let people in need be helped, how the United Stats stands by and let the thing happen.

I give credit to the Asean for developing the mechanism for assistance and for speeding up the assistance after a period of time and a kind international clearing house you work for contact with Burma that is a useful role but it should never happen at the first place.

Now the question is given the slight opening that this provided, Is there away to move Burma to a political track that make something of what is right now a some kind of markedly which is the roadmap goes nowhere and would it be possible for regional states and neighbors to press the regime to release ASSK to allow real opposition to get on the track.

PREVIEW: Progress giving Cambodia's ruling party edge ahead of vote

M&G Asia-Pacific News
By Bronwyn Sloan
Jul 24, 2008

Phnom Penh - Scarcely a month goes by without a human rights group decrying something about Cambodia under the country's dominant Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The Berlin-based anti-graft watchdog Transparency International ranks Cambodia as one of the most corrupt countries in Asia - a view shared by donors the country still relies heavily upon.

And yet no one is predicting that the CPP would emerge from national parliamentary elections scheduled for Sunday with anything but a handsomely increased majority. Voters, it seems, just don't care.

'I can't eat human rights,' said CPP voter Si Nuon, 29, a housekeeper in Phnom Penh. 'When the CPP says they are going to do something, they do it.'

Indeed, just 10 years ago, dusty, potholed roads led past ragged parks, and gunfire was a common sound. While Cambodia remains one of the world's poorest countries, sports utility and luxury vehicles now crowd smooth thoroughfares on their way to swank shopping centres and manicured public spaces where families picnic in the evenings.

Construction is everywhere, crowned by the site in the heart of the capital of Gold Tower 42, scheduled to be Cambodia's first skyscraper.

The International Monetary Fund said last month that economic growth would drop from 10.4 per cent to a still impressive 7 per cent through 2008 but praised the government on its measures to help protect the poor from rising inflation.

'Economic activity in Cambodia remains robust,' it concluded.

But the CPP certainly hasn't been harmed by the antics of its opponents, either.

Once voters equated royalty with stability. Prince Norodom Ranariddh's Funcinpec party, for example, won the first post-Khmer Rouge elections in 1993.

Since then, the royalists have been split by the prince's philandering (he lives openly with a classical dancer with whom he has a young son) and corruption allegations that culminated in the prince being convicted in absentia for the illegal sale of his own party headquarters last year.

Ranariddh is currently in self-imposed exile in Kuala Lumpur, on the run from an 18-month jail term imposed over the sale of the multimillion-dollar party lands.

Other royals have proved just as mortal. Politician and Prince Norodom Chakrapong faced a court appearance in March last year over 1.3 million dollars in government tax debts, and his privately owned airline, Royal Phnom Penh, went bankrupt.

Of the 123 seats in the National Assembly, the CPP currently holds 73, the royalist Funcinpec 26 and the opposition Sam Rainsy Party 24.

Funcinpec continues to hope royalty translates into votes while the Sam Rainsy Party is known for its anti-Vietnamese stance and the CPP has concentrated on running a positive campaign highlighting infrastructure development.

Veteran CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said his party's success is partly due to other parties underestimating the voters.

'No government can avoid inflation,' said Cheam Yeap, who claimed the CPP now has 5 million members on its books in a country of 14 million people. 'The people know oil is up and, therefore, so is the price of everything, everywhere.

'No one can avoid corruption, either. However, despite this, the CPP has made the country grow and the economy develop. Pessimists will always criticize us, but the people are not stupid.'

The ability of Hun Sen, a former soldier and farmer with little formal education but a formidable grasp of politics, to speak to the people in a language they understand and his refusal to speak down to them gives him an edge, the politician said.

'In the first election in 1993, we won 51 seats, then 64 the next time, and 73 in 2003,' he said. 'Our rise is steady like a ladder. We are hoping for up to 80 seats this election.'

After Funcinpec unceremoniously dumped Ranariddh, it replaced him with Keo Puth Rasmei, the husband of Princess Arun Rasmei - a royalist connection Funcinpec is relying on.

'The people love her royal highness,' Funcinpec spokesman Ork Socheat said, 'and right now, the people's heart is in the market. I think we can win 40 seats and be the number two party.'

But even a beautiful princess finds it tough to compete against the CPP, which has visibly and steadily improved infrastructure, building hundreds of schools and pagodas across the country - often prominently branded with the names of high-ranking CPP officials.

Elections are traditionally a time of violence, but this campaign has been relatively peaceful although the shooting deaths this month of opposition journalist Khim Sambo and his son have drawn an international outcry.

But Cheam Yeap countered that voters would have their minds more on positives, such as the government's work in securing UNESCO's recent listing of the ancient Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site, Cheam Yeap said.

'We will always be scapegoats for these people to blame,' he said. 'Where is their proof? Some parties know they have lost the election already so they are clutching at straws.'

Cambodia detains father accused of kidnapping Swedish daughter

M&G Asia-Pacific News
Jul 24, 2008

Phnom Penh - Cambodian police arrested a Norwegian father wanted by Interpol for allegedly kidnapping his daughter a year ago from her home in Sweden, an anti-trafficking official said Thursday.

Interior Ministry anti-trafficking director Bith Kim Hong said Torgeir Nordbo, whose age was not available, had been detained around 200 kilometres north of the capital with his biological daughter Alicia Elfversson, 6, after police were tipped off.

'He had cut the girl's hair and dressed her as a boy and changed her name to Al to try to avoid detection,' Bith Kim Hong said by telephone. 'We are waiting on the papers to send him back to face trial in Sweden.'

Nordbo is wanted in Gothenburg for 'crimes against children' and kidnapping, according to the Interpol website after Alicia went missing on June 4, 2007.

The girl, whom police said appeared to be in good condition, was being kept in a safe place until her mother, Maria Elfversson, who has sole legal custody, could arrive from Sweden to collect her.

Elfversson said in an earlier interview that Nordbo had apparently fled with the girl after picking her up at her Swedish home during a routine visit after expressing anger that her mother had returned to Europe after their breakup.

Nordbo has extensive business interests in Thailand.

Elfversson had praised the Cambodian police in an earlier interview, saying they had made the case a top priority.

Nordbo had moved extensively during his period on the run but had finally been located after a series of tipoffs from neighbors, police said.

'Still premature for UN to discuss Thailand-Cambodia row'

Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation (Thailand)

At least three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council agree it is premature for the body to discuss the row between Thailand and Cambodia over Preah Vihear Temple, Deputy Prime Minister Sahas Banditkul said yesterday.

Sahas, who led the Thai delegation to an Asean meeting, discussed the issue yesterday (July 23) with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the Asean Ministerial Meeting.

Sahas met and discussed issues with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, on Tuesday after Phnom Penh asked the Security Council to convene a special session on the stand-off.

"Three permanent members of the Security Council whom I have met with here said Cambodia had been in too much of a hurry in putting the issue before the UN. Thailand and Cambodia can resolve the problem bilaterally," Sahas told reporters.

Don Pramudwinai, Thailand's permanent representative to the UN, said the world body would include Cambodia's request in an emergency session today (July 24).

A formal discussion of the row may take place next week, he said.

"We expected this to happen, because it is in line with UN regulations. Now we are discussing the matter," Don said in a telephone call from New York.

The Security Council has 15 members. Its five permanent members are China, France, US, Russia and the UK. The other 10 are chosen on a rotational basis.

Viet Nam and Indonesia are presently among the non-permanent members.

Sahas also discussed the issue with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem, whose country currently chairs the Security Council, and Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda.

Both agreed the row should not be put to the Security Council as long as bilateral mechanisms were available for resolving it, he said.

"I gave all of the ministers I've met here the facts of the matter, and I did not blame Cambodia for its move," he said. "Due to time limitations, I also handed them fact sheets about the situation and our position on it." In Bangkok, Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said Thailand's diplomatic position would take a defensive stance until Cambodia finished its general election next Sunday.

"Let Cambodia carry on. We're not being harmed. I hope they'll calm down after the election. I will talk (to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen) later," he said.

Cambodia, Thailand trade more barbs over temple

Thu Jul 24, 2008

By Ek Madra

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia accused Thailand on Thursday of sending more troops to their joint border as a smoldering dispute over a 900-year-old temple showed no signs of easing.
"Thailand has continued to increase its military build-up," government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told a news conference in Phnom Penh, labeling Bangkok the aggressor in a spat that has sparked fears of a military clash.

"The situation is not easing," Kanharith said, adding that Cambodia had 800 soldiers along the border compared with around 3,000 Thai troops.

The Thai Foreign Ministry said Bangkok had only 400 men facing as many as 1,700 Cambodian soldiers. Both sides have moved artillery into the area, occupied by remnants of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge guerrilla army in the 1980s and 1990s.

At the heart of the dispute is a 1.8 square mile stretch of scrubland around the Preah Vihear temple on a jungle-clad escarpment that forms a natural boundary between the southeast Asian countries.

The temple itself is claimed by both countries but was awarded to Cambodia in 1962 by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, a ruling that has rankled in Thailand ever since.

France and Vietnam said on Wednesday the United Nations Security Council would hold a special meeting in response to a Cambodian request for it to take up the issue, although it was not clear if it would lead to formal Council involvement.

Thailand said it wanted the issue to be resolved on a bilateral basis, and it played down Phnom Penh's claims of rising tensions ahead of a general election on Sunday in Cambodia, where nationalism is a frequently played political card.

"It is a peaceful military stand-off. It is like a picnic. They chat together and lunch together," Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat told Reuters in Bangkok.

Thailand says it has the support of China, Russia, the United States, Vietnam and Indonesia against the need for Security Council intervention.

Even if it did step into the imbroglio, it is not clear what the U.N. could do other than issue a statement telling Bangkok and Phnom Penh to sort out the kafuffle.

While there have been no major incidents at the temple so far, Thai border villages that are home to some 4,000 people are braced for conflict.

Analysts say domestic Thai politics are mainly to blame for the eruption of the dispute, which stems from Cambodia's successful bid to have the ruins listed as a World Heritage site, a source of pride and joy in Cambodia and uproar in Thailand.

Bangkok's initial support for the heritage listing was seized on by anti-government groups who whipped up a nationalist fervor in their attempt to unseat the government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej. His foreign minister resigned over the issue.

(Additional reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan)

(Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Alan Raybould and Alex Richardson)

NKorea, Thai-Cambodia flare-up dominate Asian security talks

Pak Ui-chun

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (3rd-left) with ASEAN ministry officials

SINGAPORE (AFP) — US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday called for a peaceful resolution to a dangerous border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia as Asia's main security talks were held here.

Foreign ministers from the region and key world powers gathered in Singapore for the ASEAN Regional Forum after an unprecedented meeting here Wednesday between Rice and her North Korean counterpart.

The 27-nation security talks were held against the backdrop of the devastating Myanmar cyclone and Chinese earthquake in May, as well as the bitter territorial dispute between Thailand and Cambodia.

Rice said the deployment of hundreds of troops on either side of the border was an issue of concern.

"It is something that has been a subject of discussion. We are concerned about it and there needs to be a way to resolve it peacefully," she told reporters ahead of the forum.

"We'll continue to consult with the regional states... We're going to be guided very heavily by the views of the countries in this region."

More than 500 Thai troops and at least 1,000 Cambodian soldiers are facing off over a small patch of land near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, in one of the most dangerous flare-ups of regional tensions in decades.

The dispute is expected to be discussed later Thursday at the UN Security Council after Cambodia called for the world body to help resolve the issue.

Thailand has resisted outside mediation and crisis talks earlier this week among the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations failed to break the deadlock.

The highlight of this week's diplomatic jamboree was an unprecedented meeting Wednesday of foreign ministers of the six nations negotiating North Korea's denuclearisation.

In what was also their first ever meeting, Rice pressed North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-Chun to take new steps on denuclearisation but hailed the "good spirit" at the talks.

Rice shook hands twice with her "axis of evil" counterpart Pak, saying the negotiating partners "believe we've made progress" but urging Pyongyang to agree to a verification protocol on disarmament.

Foreign ministers from their six-party counterparts China, South Korea, Russia and Japan were also present at the informal meeting, the highest-level gathering of the group since the nuclear dialogue began in 2003.

"I don't think the North Koreans left with any illusions about the fact that the ball is in their court, and that everybody believes that they have got to respond and respond positively on verification," Rice said Thursday.

North Korea staged its first nuclear test in 2006 but in February the following year the hermit state agreed to drop its weapons programme in exchange for massive energy aid.

In a draft statement obtained by AFP, the ASEAN Regional Forum welcomed the talks and expressed hope recent progress would speed the process to its third stage, in which North Korea will abandon its nuclear weapons and programmes.

"In this regard, the ministers emphasised the importance of the early establishment of an effective verification mechanism," they said.

Pyongyang is also expected to sign a non-aggression treaty with ASEAN here later Thursday.
Disaster response was another major focus of the meeting after twin disasters in May -- Cyclone Nargis which struck Myanmar, and the earthquake in southwest China -- that left a total of more than 200,000 people dead or missing.

ASEAN was criticised for failing to pressure military-run Myanmar to open its borders to foreign relief workers in the immediate aftermath of the storm, but won over many of its critics by eventually leading a joint international aid effort.

According to the draft statement, the ASEAN Regional Forum endorsed a US proposal for a region-wide disaster preparedness exercise aimed at ensuring a better response to the next calamity.

Cambodia to Open Bourse in 2009; Urges Corporate Transparency

Motorists are halted in traffic congestion as they begin to cross Monivong Bridge heading into Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on May 16, 2008. Photographer: Robert James Elliott/Bloomberg News
By Netty Ismail and Yoolim Lee

July 24 (Bloomberg) -- Cambodia plans to open its first stock exchange and start a corporate bond market in the fourth quarter of 2009 in a bid to attract foreign funds to Southeast Asia's second-poorest nation, a government official said.

Six to 10 companies, with a combined market value of $200 million to $400 million, including Sokimex Group, the country's biggest petroleum company, and Acleda Bank Plc, its largest bank, will likely be listed on the exchange within a year of it being set up, Kao Thach, head of the Ministry of Economy and Finance's financial market division, said late yesterday.

Cambodia, which abolished money under the Khmer Rouge three decades ago, is seeking to lure foreign funds as economic growth slows after peaking at 13.5 percent in 2005. The government will need to improve the legal system and urge Cambodian companies to open their accounting records to investor scrutiny, said Agost Benard, who covers the country for Standard & Poor's.

``Given all the uncertainties and lack of transparency, at least initially, it will probably be the local people who are willing to take the punt,'' said Benard, associate director at the rating company in Singapore. ``International investors who expect higher standards of disclosure and transparency will take a wait-and-see attitude.''

The government last year asked more than 400 companies, most of which are family businesses, to get their financial statements audited to improve transparency, Thach, 34, said in an interview in Phnom Penh.

Local Rules

``Cambodia has been effectively cut off from the rest of the developed world for the past three decades, so a lot of business has been done based on unwritten local rules,'' said Marvin Yeo, co-founder of Frontier Investment & Development Partners in Phnom Penh.

Frontier Investment, a private-equity fund, is raising $250 million to put in the second-poorest of 10 Southeast Asian nations, and will cash out of some of its planned investments through listings on the exchange, Yeo said.

The listing requirements in Cambodia will likely be modeled on the Kosdaq, South Korea's second stock market that was set up 12 years ago for small- and medium-sized firms as well as venture start-ups, Thach said.

Companies seeking a Kosdaq listing need to be in business for at least three years with minimum paid-in capital of 500 million won ($495,417) and debt-to-equity ratio of less than 150 percent of the industry mean. Venture capital firms have less stringent requirements under the South Korean government's program to prop up smaller technology companies.

Raising Capital

South Korea's exchange is helping Cambodia set up its bourse. The Cambodian government, which will likely own at least 51 percent of the planned venture, and the operator of the Seoul-based bourse, Korea Exchange Inc., will begin discussions next month to decide on their shareholdings, Thach said.

The Cambodia Securities and Exchange Commission will likely be set up as early as September, Thach said.

``They're nowhere near getting the rules together, the criteria for listing, transparency, proper accounting,'' said John Brinsden, vice chairman of Acleda Bank, the largest Cambodian bank with 209 branches in 24 provinces.

Acleda Bank will ``need a lot of capital over the next few years'' as it opens more offices in Cambodia and neighboring countries including Laos, Brinsden said in Phnom Penh.

Sokimex, which has monopoly rights to ticket sales at the Angkor Wat ancient temple ruins in Siem Reap, plans to expand its hotel and resorts business, Chief Executive Officer Sok Kong said on the company's Web site.

Transparency Concerns

Other Cambodian companies considering initial public offerings include Canadia Bank Plc, Union Commercial Bank Plc and Mong Rithy Group, which has palm oil plantations in Sihanoukville, Thach said.

Royal Group, which owns the country's biggest mobile-phone operator and has a partnership with Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. in Cambodia, will consider a listing ``in the future,'' Chairman Kith Meng said in an interview in Phnom Penh.

Companies can sell shares or bonds in Cambodia's currency, the riel, or the dollar, which will mitigate any foreign exchange risk for international investors, Thach said.

Still, ``the biggest concern would be the credibility of the companies or their reporting standards,'' said Frontier Investment's Yeo. Transparency International, a private monitoring agency based in Berlin, ranked Cambodia 162nd of 179 countries in its annual report on perceptions of corruption last year.

UN to take up Thai-Cambodian border dispute

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — With some 4,000 troops massed along the Thai-Cambodian border, United Nations Security Council members say they will try to keep a standoff from escalating into war.

Diplomats said Wednesday they expect to call a special council session, probably next week, to deal with the latest dispute over land near the ancient temple of Preah Vihear. Cambodia has appealed to the U.N. Security Council to intervene, warning that the two sides were at "an imminent state of war."

The conflict is over an area less than two square miles around the temple that both nations claim as their own. The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but its listing this month as a U.N. World Heritage Site has stirred tensions anew.

French U.N. Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said the 15-nation council "should meet as fast as possible" based on Cambodia's request.

"We are in charge of peace and security," he said. "So, if we can diffuse the tensions and if we can prevent any development that could be dramatic for the region and for peace and security, we will do it and we think we have to do it."

Thailand sent troops to the border on July 15 after anti-government demonstrators attacked Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's government for supporting Cambodia's application to UNESCO, the U.N. agency that designates World Heritage Sites. There are now 878 sites on the global list, which helps draw attention to efforts to conserve them.

They say the temple's new status will undermine Thailand's claim to the land. Cambodia responded with its own deployment. The carved stone temple and buildings from the first half of the 11th century A.D. were built by cliffs overlooking mountains.

As the dispute entered its second week, Thailand accused Cambodia of eyeing even more of its land and leaflets appeared in the Cambodian capital calling for a boycott of Thai goods.
Cambodian police were investigating the leaflets.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said he had no choice but to appeal to the United Nations after discussions with Thailand on Monday failed to produce a breakthrough. He made a similar request to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, but the region's key bloc urged the two countries to continue bilateral negotiations.

Thailand's U.N. Ambassador Don Pramudwinai said Wednesday that Cambodia was bringing the quarrel before the Security Council because "the Cambodian target is not only Preah Vihear but the entire common border." Don told Bangkok's Business Radio that Cambodia was trying to force Thailand to accept a French colonial map that favors Cambodia.

Thailand relies on a different map drawn up later with American technical assistance.

Pramudwinai also told the Security Council in a letter Monday that "the boundary line claimed by Cambodia has no legal status" from the 1962 ruling, because he said that case dealt only with "sovereignty" — the question of who owns the temple.

Cambodia's U.N. Ambassador Sea Kosal wrote the council last Friday that "this Thai military provocation is aimed at creating a de facto 'overlapping area' that legally does not exist on Cambodia soil."

The two nations have built up about 4,000 troops in the area, with both sides insisting they won't resort to force. The atmosphere remained calm Wednesday among Cambodian and Thai troops at the hilltop temple, despite the intense diplomatic rhetoric by the respective governments.

Troops from both sides "continued interacting cordially," said Cambodian Brig. Gen. Chea Keo, without elaborating.

Associated Press writers Ker Munthit and Sopheng Cheang in Cambodia, Ambika Ahuja and Sutin Wannabovorn in Bangkok, Thailand, and Sumeth Panpetch along the Thai-Cambodian border contributed to this report.

Singapore: US Says It Will Be Guided By Regional Views In Dealing With Thai-Cambodia Dispute

Cambodian soldiers sit outside a Cambodian Buddhist temple occupied by Thai soldiers near Preah Vihear temple, in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia, on Tuesday, 22 July 2008. (Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Heng Sinith)


SINGAPORE: The United States will be guided by the views of Southeast Asian countries in assessing a simmering Thai-Cambodia border dispute if it comes up for mediation in the U.N. Security Council, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday (24 July).

The border confrontation between Thailand and Cambodia is over a piece of land around an ancient Hindu temple that was designated a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. Thailand feared that such a designation would affect its claim over surrounding land.

Earlier this week, Cambodia wrote a letter to the United Nations seeking its intervention.

"We're going to be guided very heavily by the views of the countries in this region," Rice, whose country is a permanent member of the Security Council, told reporters during a visit to Singapore.

Rice's comments came hours after Thai Deputy Prime Minister Sahas Bunditkul said the U.S. and two other permanent members of the Security Council, China and Russia, had indicated to him that Cambodia had been too hasty in approaching the world body.

Rice, who is here to attend a security conference, did not directly comment on Sahas' statement but said she made it clear to Southeast Asian countries that the U.S. "will be very much interested in and, in fact, guided by the regional assessment of what needs to be done here," she said.

She noted the issue "hasn't really been taken up before the (U.N. Security) Council yet although there has been a potential request passed."

But "we'll continue to consult with the regional states," she said.

Thousands of troops have been amassed along the border in a tense standoff for just over a week. Cambodia has asked the Security Council to hold an emergency meeting next week to resolve the problem, a move that has irritated Thailand. It says the matter should be resolved bilaterally.

Thailand has also not allowed the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, to mediate in the dispute.

French U.N. Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said Wednesday the 15-nation Security Council "should meet as fast as possible" based on Cambodia's request.

"We are in charge of peace and security, so, if we can diffuse the tensions and if we can prevent any development that could be dramatic for the region and for peace and security, we will do it and we think we have to do it," he said. (AP)

Crying 'wolf' to the UN

The Bangkok Post
Thursday July 24, 2008

The Cambodian government has got what it wanted: the successful unilateral listing of the 11th century Hindu temple of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site, even without the ''active support'' pledged by the government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej (which was given but later withdrawn due to widespread protests in Thailand). But that appears not to be enough, as Cambodia now wants more. In the aftermath of the failure of the first General Border Committee meeting in Sa Kaeo province on Monday to resolve the conflict over the 4.6 sq km overlapping zone around the ancient temple, the Cambodian government launched a multi-pronged diplomatic offensive in regional and international forums, claiming sovereignty over the zone. In so doing, Phnom Penh accused Thailand of encroaching on its territory and posing a threat to regional peace and stability.

At the Asean foreign ministers' meeting in Singapore on Monday, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong proposed that a contact group be set up to mediate the border conflict. This proposal was rejected at the meeting after a protest from the Thai delegation. Complaints were also sent to the United Nations Security Council by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, accusing Thai troops of intruding into Cambodian territory and asking for the council's intervention. The Security Council is scheduled to discuss the border dispute today.

Cambodia's charge of a border incursion by Thai forces amounts to the shepherd crying ''wolf!'' The charge is outlandish and false. The 4.6 sq km overlapping zone is not Cambodian territory, it is an area contested by both countries, although the temple itself is situated on territory under Cambodia's sovereignty as ruled by the International Court of Justice in 1962. Since then, successive Thai governments have abided by the court's ruling although they disagreed with it. Despite the ruling, access to the temple _ which is more convenient from the Thai side _ had been made available to both Thais and Cambodians alike, until only recently when relations became strained following Cambodia's unilateral application for listing the temple as a World Heritage Site.

Cambodia's diplomatic offensive to internationalise the temple issue _ whether done to whip up nationalist sentiment among the Cambodian electorate ahead of Sunday's election, or whether Cambodia really wants to lay claim to the disputed territory _ is unfriendly and not good neighbourly conduct from a country which has enjoyed friendly relations with Thailand for decades. It has also falsely painted Thailand in a negative light in the eyes of the international community, making Thailand seem like a bully against a small and weak neighbour.

Despite the military buildup at the border by the two countries and Cambodia's rhetoric that is blowing the temple issue out of proportion, there is no immediate threat of an armed conflict breaking out, and the general situation is not critical enough to warrant intervention by the UN Security Council. In fact, both sides have met only once, via the General Border Committee. More effort must be expended to resolve differences in a peaceful and friendly manner.

There will be no peaceful solution if both sides stick to their demands. The only viable and logical solution of mutual benefit is for the two countries to compromise and agree on turning the overlapping area into a peace zone or park, to be jointly developed and managed so that the Preah Vihear temple will truly be a World Heritage Site.

Thailand lobbies for UN backing

The Bangkok Post
Thursday July 24, 2008

Says border row must be resolved bilaterally


Thailand lobbied members of the United Nations Security Council yesterday, seeking support for its position that the row with Cambodia over a disputed border area near Preah Vihear temple should be resolved through bilateral talks.

Deputy Prime Minister Sahas Bunditkul had separate meetings with the foreign ministers of China, Russia, the United States, Indonesia and Vietnam on the sidelines of the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Singapore.

All five countries agreed Thailand and Cambodia should solve the conflict through bilateral talks, the Foreign Ministry quoted Mr Sahas as saying.

China, Russia and the US are Asean's dialogue partners and permanent members of the Security Council. Indonesia and Vietnam are non-permanent members. Vietnam chairs the council until the end of the month.

Bangkok-based diplomats from 13 countries sitting on the UN Security Council met with foreign affairs permanent secretary Virasakdi Futrakul at the Foreign Ministry yesterday.

They were told the dispute over the 4.6 square kilometre area at the border, between Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district and Cambodia's Preah Vihear province, was a bilateral issue, the ministry said.

Only two Security Council members, Costa Rica and Burkina Faso, did not attend the meeting at the ministry. The two countries do not have embassies in Bangkok.

Thailand's meeting with the council members took place only hours before the council, sitting at the UN in New York, was scheduled to decide (early today Thai time) whether to put the border conflict on its agenda at the urging of Cambodia.

Thai ambassador to the UN Don Pramudwinai said from New York that he expected the council to accept the Cambodian request.

He said if the council agrees to consider the case, Thailand and Cambodia could be called to give information before council members on Monday.

The ambassador said Cambodia had tried to force Thailand to accept the 1904 map drawn by France in demarcating the area.

Thailand considers that map puts it at a disadvantage in any talks to settle the boundary with Cambodia near the temple because it does not use the watershed as the border line.

The General Border Committee (GBC), chaired by the two countries' defence ministers, is a key body for resolving border conflicts.

But talks between Supreme Commander Gen Boonsrang Niempradit and Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh on Monday in Aranyaprathet district of Sa Kaeo province failed. Another meeting is plannedr next month.

However, Mr Virasakdi told the 13 diplomats at the ministry that at least Thailand and Cambodia had agreed in Sa Kaeo that their soldiers would not use force and remain peacefully in the overlapping area.

Gen Boonsrang strongly opposed Cambodia's move to bring the issue to the UN Security Council. Doing so could make it difficult for the two countries to solve the problem, he said before leaving for Indonesia.

''The best way to solve the problem is for it to be resolved by the two countries. Third parties should not step in until there is a deadlock,'' he said.

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej was optimistic about prospects for talks with Cambodia on the temple row after the election there set for Sunday.

Mr Samak said all moves made by Cambodia, including the remarks by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen that Thai soldiers were on its territory, were geared towards the poll.

Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said in Singapore that the group wanted the two countries to ''find their own solution at the bilateral level'' and avoid any action that could trigger a full-blown confrontation.

Hoping for the best but ready for the worst

The Bangkok Post
Thursday July 24, 2008

Crises produce leadership and in the case of the escalating Preah Vihear border tension, one man stands tall on the hill of conflict. The army has been bombarded with criticism for its leisurely response to the border dispute. It mobilised troops to the 4.6 sq km troublespot only on July 15, several days after the temple conflict had flared up.

In light of the border military buildup, Thailand risks running an image deficit as it could come across as the aggressor who refuses to play by the rules even after the ancient Preah Vihear temple has been listed by Unesco as a World Heritage site.

As the race in diplomacy was under way to cool the border friction, the front-line defence was being mounted, with Kanok Netrakawesana, commander of the Sixth Infantry Division and the Suranaree Task Force, despatched to head the military campaign up the slope of the Preah Vihear hill, to secure the Thai side of the border.

The 600-strong armed rangers took the uphill trek to the west of the ancient ruins, and are now stationed face-to-face with an equally large Cambodian military force sent last week.

Despite the sense of friendship that exists between the two armies, the military buildup on both sides of the border, spurred by the recent crossing of the fence by three Thais, including one Buddhist monk, into the disputed zone, could easily touch off a serious confrontation.

Maj-Gen Kanok's troops were forced to make the rough trek over the hill and through the forest after they were prevented by army chief Anupong Paojinda from cutting the chain around an iron gate to the stairways leading up to the hilltop temple.

Apart from the 600 rangers who took up positions near the Wat Kaew area adjacent to the border, about 2,000 soldiers have been spread around the disputed area.

Providing a backdrop to the real-life military drama is the presence of heavy armaments and tanks as well as a deployment of war weapons.

There is no denying that the unfolding Preah Vihear temple saga has catapulted Maj-Gen Kanok to prominence.

It was he who had written to the National Security Council warning of the danger Preah Vihear's heritage registration could pose to Thailand's territorial demarcation and even a possible loss of border land.

A military source said Maj-Gen Kanok was looking to bring in troops to the disputed area as early as June, when the border issue had just started to heat up, but his plan was snubbed by the army chief.

On many occasions, he alerted higher-ups to the potentially unmanageable border hostility from the temple's listing.

Grappling with the gravity of the brewing conflict, Gen Anupong dispatched troops to the hill upon learning of the arrest by the Cambodian army of the three Thais in the disputed zone.

Maj-Gen Kanok insists that credit for the military response is due to Gen Anupong alone.

Maj-Gen Kanok, admired for being direct and forceful at times, has been living on the frontline alongside his rank and file _ braving the forest and huddling under the rain at night together with his men. His action has boosted the morale of soldiers, now banded together in what could turn into a battlefield.

They have to trek for about an hour to reach their positions. They have to save on drinking water, with only two meals to eat on some days. Sometimes, a meal consists only of plain glutinous rice or dry instant noodles.

Born in Bangkok, the commander knows the Thai-Cambodian border terrain like the back of his hand, having been assigned to serve the Sixth Infantry Division since he graduated from Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, Class 11.

Right now, the volatile situation on the border appears rather placid, but for how long is anybody's guess.

The senior defence talks led by Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Gen Tea Banh, and Supreme Commander Gen Boonsrang Niempradit, included generally agreeable terms.

Both sides resolved to maintain the military deployment and were open to the rules of engagement which prohibit the use of force and a despatch of further reinforcements to the disputed area.

The soldiers from both sides are likely to stand their ground for the long haul while Maj-Gen Kanok is taking every precaution to ensure there is no pretext or incident which could cause the fragile border situation to escalate into violence.

Although the military is leaving nothing to chance, there is always the alarming possibility that fully-armed soldiers from either side of the border will be at each other's throats over a slight misunderstanding. Thai and Cambodian patrol soldiers near the Preah Vihear sanctuary have been friends, but the recent addition of ''strangers'' who are soldiers fresh off the convoy from Phnom Penh and Along Veng may need a fair amount of ice-breaking to keep the border feud from reaching boiling point.

But Maj-Gen Kanok hopes for the best but is prepared for the worst. In his words: ''If there is to be shooting and casualties, our soldiers will stand firm, at the ready to defend our soil.''

He has tried to ease the tension by agreeing with his Cambodian counterpart to move the lines of soldiers facing each other further apart.

Historically, the conflict has been longstanding, going back eight years when Cambodian villagers came and settled in the overlapping zone, which should have been left unoccupied. Cambodian soldiers planted land mines around the entrances to the zone and denied the Thailand Mines Action Centre access to de-mine the area.

Maj-Gen Kanok has repeated his call for the Foreign Ministry to step up diplomatic leverage in opposing the listing. He also expects the Preah Vihear issue to drag on, now that Phnom Penh is bringing the border feud to the United Nations' attention.

The commander said he was waiting for an ''order'' from the army chief and people to plant the Thai flag in the overlapping zone.

''Just say the word. I can do it,'' Maj-Gen Kanok said.

Wassana Nanuam reports on military affairs for the Bangkok Post.

Rural population likely to be key in re-electing Cambodian regime

The Irish Times
Thursday, July 24, 2008

CAMBODIA: The government is expected to increase its majority in Sunday's poll, writes Fergal Quinn in Prey Veng province.

WITH JUST a few days to go before polling in the national assembly elections, the town of Prey Veng in southeast Cambodia seemed oddly quiet this week.

There were few processions, rallies or colourful party billboards to suggest that this town is capital of a province that is key to deciding the next government.

Eleven out of 123 seats nationally are up for grabs here, and indications by observers this week suggest that the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), the one-time communists who have hung on to power since seizing it in a military coup, could emerge as the big winners in Sunday's vote.

Although Phnom Penh is abuzz with election theatrics and a plethora of opposition parties are out in force, it is provinces like Prey Veng, with its predominantly rural, uneducated population, that will be key to deciding the government. And the signs are that they will provide the springboard for the CPP to add to its 73-seat national assembly majority.

Despite strong campaigning by the opposition and a calmer atmosphere than during previous elections, the CPP is continuing to gain ground, said Prey Veng provincial secretary for independent election monitors Comfrel Kim Sokhom. "The people in the countryside have always just gone and voted for the CPP or the royalists [ Funcinpec]," he said.

Kim Sokhom predicts that the majority of Funcinpec's 26 seats will go to the CPP, with Funcinpec's support collapsing since its popular leader, former prime minister Prince Norodom Ranarridh, was ousted and fled to Malaysia to avoid corruption charges in 2006.

It is an outcome commentators are saying would be disastrous for Cambodia, where the ruling party has been heavily implicated in widespread corruption, land-grabbing and abuses of human rights since coming to power.

According to independent analyst and former president of the Centre for Social Development Chea Vannath, the CPP's firm grip on the countryside is because of its overwhelming advantage in financial and human resources.

"The CPP have learnt the importance of this segment and have worked harder and harder at controlling it," she said.

Grenade attacks on opposition rallies, assassinations and intimidation have all been used in the pursuit of power since the messy handover of power by the UN in 1993. This time the CPP is taking a softer approach. Gift-giving has been the main electoral abuse reported in the lead-up to this year's poll in Prey Veng.

Clothing and money have been brazenly handed out at large rallies, while the national election committee, the official body charged with punishing election law abuses, and the government-dominated broadcast media have turned a blind eye.

According to Chea Vannath, the more blatant misuses of power by the CPP tend to be noticed more by people in urban areas. "In the cities, for example, you can see the corruption every time you access a service, while those in rural areas see it less often," she said.

In places like Prey Veng, it doesn't take much from the CPP to win people over, according to Kim Sokhon. "People are poor here, they are easily impressed," he said.

The CPP can also point to an economy on the up, roads being upgraded, and new buildings springing up all over - signs of progress in this impoverished nation's attempt to put its disastrous past behind it.

Duch Kadum, Prey Veng department chief for the CPP, said that the CPP's target was to win every seat in his province. "People want benefits like schools, hospitals, roads and canals for agriculture," he said. "We have been providing this so they will continue to support us." But he denied all the allegations of gift-giving. "There is no evidence or witnesses to support that claim," he said.

Aside from misuse of state resources, the opposition has had plenty to get its teeth into, with inflation at an all-time high and unemployment levels growing.

Most eyes this year are on the socially left, economically conservative Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), which made impressive strides in the 2003 elections. It won 23 seats on an anti-corruption ticket, and continued that upward trajectory in local elections last year.

According to Yim Khun Khoeun, who is running as one of the party's six candidates in Prey Veng, his party is poised to do well on Sunday. "We hope to win five or six seats in this province," he said, adding that for the party not to increase its share nationwide would be a major disappointment.

"We have focused on tackling inflation, creating jobs and improving the salaries of civil servants, while the CPP still just talk about the same old stuff," he said.

However, Houng Ny (52), a farmer in Baray commune, Kampong Liev district, argued that the CPP would win big at the weekend. "I will vote for them because they saved this country from the Khmer Rouge," he said of a party led by two former Khmer Rouge commanders, prime minister Hun Sen and national assembly president Heng Samrin. "Prey Veng is developing a lot now," he added. "Who knows what would happen if someone else came in?"

Dy Samon, SRP deputy commune chief of Takeo commune in Kampong Lieu, said that although his party was making inroads in rural areas, people were still afraid to speak out in support of them. "The CPP officials keep an eye out," he said.

A fishing net-maker in Prey Veng would not state any preference when asked about the election. "I am afraid to talk about that," he said. "All I want to see is calm over the weekend."

According to Chea Vannath, it was never realistic to expect that the SRP could on its own form the effective opposition that Cambodia needs. "They are making progress, but it would take a big disaster to topple the ruling party now," she said. "The best option is a strong coalition of a number of other smaller parties and factions. Otherwise the opposition will remain that for a long time to come."

Dispute: Thai-Cambodian stand-off

KHAO PRA VIHARN, Thailand - Thais living along the border with Cambodia began evacuation and weapon drills yesterday, fearing a land dispute might escalate into violence after talks failed this week.

In villages near the disputed Preah Vihear temple, where hundreds of Thai and Cambodian troops faced off for a ninth day, workers dug holes for new bomb shelters. They also renovated old bunkers dating back to the 1980s, when stray shells often landed during fighting between Khmer Rouge guerrillas and Cambodian government troops.

At the heart of the dispute is a 4.6sq km area around the temple, which sits on a jungle-clad escarpment that forms a natural boundary and is claimed by both nations. The build-up of troops and heavy artillery on both sides of the border has worried neighbouring countries and the UN, to which Cambodia has appealed for help.

While there have been no major incidents at the temple so far, Thai border villages that are home to some 4,000 people are braced for the worst. Authorities have begun arming volunteers with shotguns and training villagers how to defend against potential invaders.

- (Reuters)

Thai-Cambodian diplomacy 'has yet to be exhausted'

Wed, July 23, 2008
By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation

At least three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council agrees it is premature at this time for the body to discuss the row between Thailand and Cambodia over Preah Vihear Temple, Deputy Prime Minister Sahas Banditkul said Wednesday.

Sahas, who led the Thai delegation to an Asean meeting, discussed the issue on Wednesday with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the Asean Ministerial Meeting.

Sahas met and discussed issues with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, on Tuesday after Phnom Penh asked the Security Council to convene a special session on the standoff.

"Three permanent members of the Security Council whom I have met with here said Cambodia had been in too much of a hurry in putting the issue before the UN. Thailand and Cambodia can resolve the problem bilaterally," Sahas told reporters.

Don Pramudwinai, Thailand's permanent representative to the UN, said the world body would include Cambodia's request in an emergency session today.

A formal discussion of the row may take place next week, he said.

"We expected this to happen, because it is in line with UN regulations. Now we are discussing the matter," Don said in a telephone call from New York.

The Security Council has 15 members. Its five permanent members are China, France, US, Russia and the UK. The other 10 are chosen on a rotational basis.

Vietnam and Indonesia are presently among the nonpermanent members.

Sahas also discussed the issue with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem, whose country currently chairs the Security Council, and Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda.

Both agreed the row should not be put to the Security Council as long as bilateral mechanisms were available for resolving it, he said.

"I gave all of the ministers I've met here the facts of the matter, and I did not blame Cambodia for its move," he said. "Due to time limitations, I also handed them fact sheets about the situation and our position on it."

In Bangkok, Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said Thailand's diplomatic position would take a defensive stance until Cambodia finished its general election next Sunday.

"Let Cambodia carry on. We're not being harmed. I hope they'll calm down after the election. I will talk [to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen] later," he said.

Preah Vihear, the temple on the frontline

France 24
Wednesday 23 July 2008

Cambodia and Thailand are on the brink of war after a dispute over the Preah Vihear religious monument escalated earlier this month. FRANCE 24 reporters travelled to the temple at the centre of the dispute.

By C. Payen and S. Kane

Preah Vihear is an 11th-century religious monument located on the Thai-Cambodian border. The two countries have been fighting over its sovereignty for a century and the temple's recent listing as a UNESCO World Heritage site has renewed the quarrel.

In Cambodia, where the listing request came from, everyone is talking about the dispute.

"Many Thai soldiers come in Cambodia. This is not good. Preah Vihear is in Cambodia, not Thailand. They can bring many many troops, we don't care!", a man named Rith told FRANCE 24 in Phnom Penh.

Cambodian officials talk about an imminent state of war. They have requested a UN Security Council emergency meeting as well as intervention from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Bangkok strongly opposed its neighbour's demands.

Thai forces have been massing on their side of the border. After a near shoot-out a few days ago, reinforcements have been sent into the area. There are now thousands of soldiers on both sides, and the dispute is being exploited by Thailand's political opponents.

"The government is betraying the Thai people. We represent the people’s voice," said a nationalist Buddhist monk. "It is the people will that must be recognized, the old border treaties…these treaties give this territory and this temple to Thailand and Thailand only."

While the war of words escalates, planes are ready in Bangkok to evacuate Thai citizens from Cambodia if needed.

Tourist growth helps boost property market in Cambodia

Property Wire
Wednesday, 23 July 2008

The number of tourists visiting Cambodia has increased in the first half of this year with authorities now predicting more than 2.3 million visitors for 2008.

The Ministry of Tourism said numbers were up more than 14% compared with last year. A spokesman said political stability and infrastructure improvements had increased the number of tourist arrivals to the country. Some $1.64 billion is expected to be generated in 2008 from tourism alone.

According to specialists this means a boost for those with buy-to-let property in the country as these latest figures are part of a trend. Visitor numbers reached 2 million in 2006, and rose a further 20% in 2007.

'This sustained and aggressive growth in the tourist sector, as well as booming construction, property and garment manufacturing sectors is helping the country's economy to enjoy near double-digit growth,' said a spokesman for David Stanley Redfern.

The real estate sector, in particular, is growing at a phenomenal rate and no more so than in the capital Phnom Penh where land doubled last year to $3,000 per square metre, up from just $500 in 2000. 'Add to this the growth in the tourism sector and rental yields in the city are also expected to grow,' he added.

Once known as the 'Pearl of Asia', Phnom Penh is a significant global and domestic tourist destination for Cambodia. The city is the wealthiest and most populous in the country; it's commercial, political and cultural hub and is home to more than two million people.

French villas along tree-lined boulevards remind the visitor of its colonist heritage, yet its oldest structure is the Wat Phnom from the founding days of the city, constructed in 1373. The French however, certainly left their mark and parts of the city are filled with colonial villas, French churches, boulevards, and famous landmarks such as the Art deco market Phsar Thom Thmei and the Hotel Le Royal.

Proving popular are apartments in the chic riverside French quarter from as little as £49,000. These authentic French colonial period buildings have been completely refurbished and modernised and are expected to appreciate by 15 to 20% per year. The developer is currently offering a rental guarantee of 9% for the first two years, making this a safe investment in an aggressively growing market.

UN to take up Thai-Cambodian border dispute


UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations Security Council will convene a special session to try to prevent a border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia from escalating into a military confrontation.

Diplomats said Wednesday the session probably would be held next week after Cambodia appealed to the U.N. for help. The Association of South East Asian Nations, or ASEAN, declined a Cambodian request to help resolve the dispute after Thailand objected.

The conflict focuses on an area both nations claim as their own and that is less than 2 square miles around the Preah Vihear temple, which an international court awarded to Cambodia in 1962.

Thai troops killed Cambodian refugees there in 1979, and its listing this month as a U.N. World Heritage Site stirred tensions in Thailand.

Exports, tourism to Cambodia fall on worries over border temple

SA KAEO, July 23 (TNA) - Exports and tourism to Cambodia from the Thai border district of Aranyaprathet had fallen sharply since the beginning of July as traders and tourists have become worried over fallout in response to the disputed border area between the two neighbouring countries, senior Thai officials said Wednesday.

Pol. Lt-Col. Jirachart Romsaiyud, chief of immigration police at Aranyaprathet, said that the numbers of Thai tourists visiting 12th-century Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom in Cambodia had tumbled more than 80 per cent while group tours were cancelled altogether.

He said that the numbers of Cambodians visiting and shopping at the main market at Aranyaprathet near the border crossing declined over 40 per cent.

Several tens of thousands of tourists -- until last month -- formerly visited the market while more than Bt20 million changed hands daily, Col. Jirachart said.

The sharp declines came as local residents on both sides of the border were concerned over tensions connected with protests and troop movements in relation to the 4.6-square-kilometre disputed area on the Thai-Cambodian border between Si Sa Ket and Preah Vihear provinces, he said.

Meanwhile, Aranyaprathet customs chief Samphan Jarurattananont said that the dispute had already depressed trade as exports from this border district since the beginning of July had fallen over Bt300 million in value, and that Cambodian traders had returned to their homes.

Armed Thai Army Rangers continued to patrol along the border here while plainclothes Cambodian military were seen in Poi Pot, across the bridge from Aranyaprathet. Thai sources said that Thailand had not reinforced its troops at this key border district. (TNA)

Cambodians lose faith in elections

Hun Sen, the Cambodian prime minister, front right, Chea Sim, the president of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, centre, and Heng Samrin, the party’s honorary president, attend an election rally in Phnom Penh. Heng Sinith / AP

Larry Jagan, Foreign Correspondent
July 23. 2008

PHNOM PENH // Cambodians go to the polls on Sunday to choose their fourth government since the end of a bloody civil war in the early 1990s, but many in this country of 14 million say that voting will have little effect in one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries. Although 11 parties have fielded candidates, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, led by Hun Sen, who has been in power since 1983, is expected to win a landslide victory, leading many to complain the country is turning into a one-party state.

Although there has been little of the systematic violence that plagued the previous two elections, Cambodians are becoming increasingly nervous as election day nears. “People always fear the worst, but there is little evidence that this election will be marred by the violence and vote-rigging of the previous two elections,” said Chhaya Hang, the executive director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy. “Each successive election since 1993 has been more transparent than the previous one,” he said.

Nevertheless, many Cambodians living in the capital have taken extended holidays and plan to stay at home on polling day. Sunday marks the fourth election since the United Nations oversaw a peaceful transition in the country in the early 1990s, after the Paris peace agreement was signed between four warring factions, including the Vietnamese-backed government of Hun Sen and the Khmer Rouge, blamed for the deaths of up to two million people during its 1975-1979 rule.

Voters will elect 123 members of the national assembly, the lower house of parliament, with the winner forming a new government that will run the country for the next five years.There has been only a handful of complaints of electoral abuse, all of which have been dismissed by the electoral body overseeing the polls. “So far, there is no real evidence of election violence or fraud,” said Im Soudsey, chairman of the National Electoral Commission.

“But all cases referred to the commission will be thoroughly investigated.”In the worst incident, Khim Sambo, an opposition journalist, and his 21-year-old son were shot dead by unidentified assailants outside their home in Phnom Penh more than a week ago. Police are still investigating the incident and have yet to release their findings. “This election is proving to be the most peaceful since Cambodia’s first real democratic elections 15 years ago,” said Ok Serei, a Cambodian political analyst. “The electoral process is maturing with every election.”

The opposition, though, still believes the elections will be rigged. “Even though there is less violence, [fewer] deaths, the ruling party is using more subtle means to achieve the same results,” said Sam Rainsy, the main opposition leader, whose party bears his name. He said the government was using intimidation tactics and bribes to entice voters to support the governing party. “Village chiefs remain a problem and frequently violate the laws,” said Chhaya Hang of the Khmer Institute of Democracy. “But people know the importance of the elections and understand the rules and regulations.”

Kem Sohka, the head of the other main opposition party – the newly formed Khmer Human Rights Party – was even more blunt, accusing the ruling Cambodian People’s Party of harassment, intimidation and vote buying. “They cannot win the election except by cheating,” he said. “And if they lose the election they wouldn’t hand over power – they would hang on to it, just like in Zimbabwe.”Most of the recent election rallies have had the air of a carnival and, apart from the first day of campaigning, few people have come out to hear what the candidates and the party representatives have had to say.

“Why should I care? We know who’s going to win,” said Thy Thi Kaeng, a Chinese-Cambodian taxi driver. “I voted Funcinpec [the royalist party] the first time, then they joined the government, so I voted Sam Rainsy after that – but this time there is no point – it’s a wasted vote.”Most diplomats in Cambodia believe that many people will either abstain from voting this time round, or choose the ruling party rather than cause trouble.

“There is certainly a growing apathy among voters,” said Aamir Arain, a project manager for the UN Strengthening Democracy and Electoral Procedures programme. Mr Arain said there were a number of reasons for this: “Firstly, they are more consumed by economic issues. Secondly, they have seen the same party in power since 1993. This has led many voters to believe that there is no alternative, and they have become increasingly disinterested in politics as a result.”

The election commission, however, is confident of a strong turnout at the polls. “I expect more than 70 per cent of the registered voters to cast their ballots at next week’s polls,” said Im Soudsey, the elections body chairman.Hang Puthea, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, warned that voter apathy could cause even more problems for the country in the future.

“If there is no opposition party, the party in power can do whatever they want,” he said. “We’re concerned that the balance of power will be lost, and we worry that the CPP will control every level of administration from the top government posts down to the village,” said Koul Panha, the executive director of Comfrel, another election monitor. Even though Hun Sen appears to be on track for an easy victory in next week’s elections, the real test will come after the vote.

With the country’s poor hit hard by soaring food and fuel prices, dissatisfaction is growing. About 35 per cent of Cambodia’s 14 million people live on less than 50 US cents (Dh1.8) a day, and economists have said corruption is endemic. The government has acknowledged inflation is currently running at about 17 per cent, but international financial analysts said it could be as high as 25 per cent, and that – they said – is likely to fuel real demand for change.