Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Day in Picture

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen smokes during a break from farming at a rice field in the Samrong Toug district in Kampong Spue province, 70 km west of Phnom Penh, August 6, 2008. Sen said on Wednesday that extremists from Thailand and Cambodia are to be blamed for inflaming the border dispute between the nations.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen walks on a rice field in the Samrong Toug district in Kampong Spue province, 70 km west of Phnom Penh, August 6, 2008. Sen said on Wednesday that extremists from Thailand and Cambodia are to be blamed for inflaming the border dispute between the nations.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen plants rice at a field in the Samrong Toug district in Kampong Spue province, 70 km west of Phnom Penh, August 6, 2008. Sen said on Wednesday that extremists from Thailand and Cambodia are to be blamed for inflaming the border dispute between the nations.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen tills a field in the Samrong Toug district in Kampong Spue province, 70 km west of Phnom Penh, August 6, 2008. Sen said on Wednesday that extremists from Thailand and Cambodia are to be blamed for inflaming the border dispute between the nations.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen is greeted by villagers during his visit to a rice field in the Samrong Toug district in Kampong Spue province, 70 km west of Phnom Penh, August 6, 2008. Sen said on Wednesday that extremists from Thailand and Cambodia are to be blamed for inflaming the border dispute between the nations.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen talks to farmers at a rice field in the Samrong Toug district in Kampong Spue province, 70 km west of Phnom Penh, August 6, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Thomas Wayne Rapanos from Florida, center, is escorted by police out of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008. The 55-year-old American national was sentenced Wednesday to two years and six months in prison in Cambodia for sexually molesting two girls aged 12 and 16.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Thai soldier (right) cleans his weapon as a Cambodian soldier carrying a B40 rocket talks to him near the Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, on August 2. Officials from Cambodia and Thailand said Wednesday that tensions over a second disputed Khmer ruin on their joint border had been resolved and troops had returned to their stations.(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Cambodia stresses peaceful solution with Thailand

Thai soldiers camp out outside a Cambodian Buddhist temple which Thai have occupied close to a famed Preah Vihear temple complex in Preah Vihear Province near Cambodia-Thai border, Cambodia , Friday, Aug. 1, 2008. Cambodia said Sunday, Aug. 3, 2008 Thai soldiers are occupying a second temple site along on their border, a new twist in an ongoing armed standoff that nearly led to clashes between the neighbors last month. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia's prime minister reiterated his call for a peaceful solution to a border dispute with Thailand, warning Wednesday that both countries's economies would suffer if the conflict erupts into a full-scale war.

In his first public speech since winning national elections last month, Prime Minister Hun Sen said both countries must "narrow the conflict and expand friendship and cooperation."

Thai and Cambodian troops have been facing off along their shared border for three weeks over disputed territory — first near Preah Vihear temple and then at Ta Moan Thom temple.

Hun Sen's comments came as the confrontation at Ta Moan Thom appeared to be easing, with both sides pulling back their soldiers.

"We cannot just carve out Thailand to put in the sky or move our land away," Hun Sen said in a two-hour speech Wednesday. "We will coexist for tens of thousands of years to come."

He also criticized leaflets calling for a Cambodian boycott of Thai goods in response to Thailand's alleged encroachment onto Cambodian territory near Preah Vihear.

"A border dispute should not turn the two countries into enemies in all domains," he said. "That is very dangerous."

He said he was not being "soft," but warned that if war broke out "the two countries will only stand to lose" in terms of trade and economic cooperation.

The dispute surrounding the 13th century Ta Moan Thom temple started when Cambodian officials said some 70 Thai soldiers occupied the temple site last week and prevented Cambodian troops from entering. Thai military officials countered that their troops had been in the area for years.

Agreement for a troop withdrawal from the grounds of the temple was reached late Tuesday during a meeting between officials from the two countries, said Maj. Ho Bunthy, a Cambodian army commander in the area.

The sanctuary is located several hundred miles west of Preah Vihear temple, where Cambodian and Thai soldiers have been locked in a standoff for three weeks in a dispute over nearby territory.

About 800 troops from Cambodia and 400 from Thailand remain in the Preah Vihear area despite a tentative agreement reached by foreign ministers last week to redeploy them in an effort to ease tensions.

Hun Sen said another meeting between the two countries' foreign ministers would take place August 18 in the Thai resort town of Hua Hin, where delegates would discuss plans to redeploy troops and conduct mine clearing operations.

In Thailand, Lt. Gen. Nipat Thonglek, the chief of military border affairs, said Wednesday that his government would set up a committee to consider redeploying its troops from the border area near Preah Vihear temple.

He said the decision was made at a Thai Cabinet meeting Tuesday. He stressed redeployment of troops must be conducted in a manner appropriate with the military's "duty to protect the sovereignty" of Thailand.

Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith welcomed the announcement as "good news."
"The sooner the redeployment takes place, the better," he said.

Thailand and Cambodia sent troops to the border area after UNESCO approved Cambodia's application to have the Preah Vihear temple complex named a World Heritage Site. Some Thai activists say the temple's new status will jeopardize their country's claims to land next to the site.

Associated Press writer Sutin Wannabovorn in Bangkok contributed to this report.

Border meeting

The Bangkok Post

Phnom Penh - Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag will host his Cambodian counterpart Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in another effort to settle the potentially explosive border dispute, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday.

In a speech broadcast on state radio, Hun Sen said talks between Hor Namhong and Bunnag would be held in Hua Hin, where His Majesty the King of Thailand has a seaside palace.

"Hor Namhong will meet his Thai counterpart ... on Aug 18. Hor Namhong will then" have an audience with His Majesty, Hun Sen said at a rice farming ceremony in the southwestern province of Kampong Speu, 40 kilometres west of the capital.

Cambodia had earlier said no further talks on disputed territory around the World Heritage-listed border temple of Preah Vihear and the Ta Moan Thom temple would be held until a new government was formed, probably in September.

However, with Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party's efforts to form a coalition appearing to go more smoothly than after any previous election, talks had been moved forward.

Hun Sen said Cambodia sought to take the situation back to how it had been before July 15, when Thai troops moved into overlapping territory surrounding the temple, eight days after Preah Vihear was granted its World Heritage status by Unesco.

"At the pagoda we ask only Buddhist nuns, laymen and Buddhist monks stay - not troops from either side," Hun Sen said.

"I would like to respectfully inform the Thai king that if any other Cambodian except Hun Sen was prime minister, there would be war on the border since July 15 ... but not me."

"I would like to appeal to everybody to please, not expand the dispute but reduce it ... I am strong enough to lead a war. I was a soldier ... but the best resolution is not to fight. How many die?"

"Fighting is easy - it's ending the fight that is difficult," Hun Sen said. (dpa)

Cambodian PM says Thai temple row must be resolved

By Ek Madra

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Thailand and Cambodia must bury the hatchet in a dispute over a 900-year-old Hindu temple, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Wednesday, further easing fears the spat would escalate into military confrontation.

"We must not bring our countries to war just because of disputes on our border," Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge guerrilla who won re-election last month, said in a live television broadcast. He has been prime minister for the past 23 years.

"We need to stay together as good neighbors for tens of thousands of years to come. We need to narrow our disputes and maximize bilateral cooperation, including trade," he said, striking a very different tone from the nationalist rhetoric of his campaign trail last month.

Both countries have sent hundreds of soldiers and artillery to lay claim to 1.8 square miles of scrub near the Preah Vihear temple, which sits on the jungle-clad escarpment that separates the two southeast Asian countries.

Talks between the countries' two foreign ministers the day after Cambodia's July 27 general election yielded vows to sort out the spat peacefully, but both sides have been reluctant to be the first to withdraw troops for fear of being painted as weak.

Hun Sen said he hoped another meeting between the two foreign ministers in Thailand on August 18 would help narrow the differences.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong will also pay a courtesy call to Thailand's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Hun Sen said.

He also said Phnom Penh was ready to withdraw its troops, echoing a Thai cabinet decision on Tuesday to assign a regional military commander to discuss troop "re-deployment" to calm tensions.

The spat erupted last month when protest groups trying to overthrow the Thai government attacked Bangkok's backing of Cambodia's bid to list Preah Vihear as a U.N. World Heritage site.

Preah Vihear has been claimed by both sides for decades, but was awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice in 1962, a ruling that has rankled in Thailand ever since.

The row spread at the weekend to a second temple on the border although a military stand-off at the Ta Moan Thom site was averted when Thai troops pulled out late on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Ek Madra; Editing by Nopporn Wong-Anan and Ed Cropley and Paul Tait)

Cambodian PM Urges Peaceful Resolution With Thailand

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday urged a peaceful solution to a border dispute with Thailand, saying a full-scale conflict would damage both countries' economies.

In his first public speech since winning a national election in July, Hun said both countries must "narrow the conflict and expand friendship and cooperation."

Soldiers from both countries have faced off against each other along their shared border near first near Preah Vihear temple and then at Ta Moan Thom temple, over disputed territory.

"We cannot just carve out Thailand to put in the sky or move our land away," Hun Sen said in a two-hour speech Wednesday. "We will coexist for tens of thousands of years to come."

"A border dispute should not turn the two countries into enemies in all domains," he added. "That is very dangerous."

The dispute began last month when about 70 Thai troops occupied the Ta Moan Thom temple site and prevented Cambodian troops from entering.

The Thai military said its troops had occupied the site for years.

Sacravatoons no 1093 : " Savez-Vous Vendre Chez Vous ? "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at

Rupert Skilbeck resigns

Cambodge Soir

The British lawyer, Head of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal’s Defense Support Section, will assume a new position in New York.

Rupert Skilbeck, head of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal’s Defence Support Section has stepped down, announces the “Cambodia Daily” on Monday 4th of August.

The British lawyer will be assuming his new position at the Open Society Justice Initiative in New York, a legal organisation based in New York, which in February had harshly criticised the malfunctioning of the ECCC, denouncing a system of organised corruption within the tribunal.
Interviewed by the “Cambodia Daily”, Rupert Skilbeck has congratulated the tribunal for its recent progress, particularly within the context of Ieng Sary’s pre-trial hearing.

“Last month we had four-day legal arguments on the definition of amnesty, double jeopardy and pardon. This is no mean feat and it’s the first time that this happens in Cambodia. And to be honest, in many developing countries you would never see anything like that”, he said.

Moreover, in New York the United Nations have started the investigation on the accusations of corruption, said Knut Rosandhaug, deputy director in the office of administration of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. According to him, the United Nations Secretariat is in the possession of “concrete” information concerning the retrocession of salaries imposed on the employees of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

The “Cambodia Daily” of the 5th of August mentions that a memorandum had been sent on the 25th of June to the employees of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal by the head of the administration, Sean Visoth, stating that “new accusations” of corruption had been brought up.

The NEC wants to end the controversy

Cambodge Soir

The opposition parties are challenging the election results by denouncing the fraudulent use of the 1018 form and the dubious schemes which happened during the update of the rolls.

On Tuesday 5th of August, the committee in charge of organising the elections has published a press release and focuses on two points which are shaking up the political situation since the day of the elections. Through its spokesperson, the National Election Committee (NEC) brings up questions from voters who weren’t registered and questions concerning the 1018 form.

For what concerns the NEC; the million voters who were allegedly and unduly cut from the rolls, currently proclaimed by various opposition parties, is being qualified as implausible. The spokesperson points out that: “During the last verification of the rolls in 2007, only 585,000 people were cut from the rolls for various reasons like: moving house, double registration or decease.”

The NEC wishes to emphasise that it tries to work on the rolls with “a maximum of transparency”, while admitting that this problem is of fundamental importance for the good progress of the elections and that it would make even more efforts during the next update in October 2008.

According to the opposition, the committee remains vague about the abusive use of the 1018 form which allowed voters without identification card to vote at the polling stations. The spokesperson declares having: “given the orders to the district authorities to release this document on the 26th of July only”. And in case it was drawn up during another day, it would be considered “a fake which wouldn’t be accepted”. The committee is currently working on the follow-up of the complaints filed against this form, explaining that: “these complaints will be solved fairly and in accordance with the law”.

Hun Sen generous with Funcinpec

Cambodge Soir

On Monday morning at the airport, the Prime Minister revealed that five main leaders of the royalist party will be given important positions in the next government, probably at the level of Deputy Prime Minister or Secretary of State.

Hun Sen certainly became very talkative as he walked along the airstrip, last Friday, while accompanying the King Father, the Queen Mother and the King as they were ready to fly out to Beijing. The Government leader openly criticised Sam Rainsy, asking him not to boycott the first session of the National Assembly, with the risk of facing reprisals. On Monday morning Hun Sen stood at the same place, this time to bid farewell to the Prime Minister of Kuwait, Nasser Mohammed Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah after his official visit to the Kingdom. In other words, a new intervention from Cambodia’s strongman, but within a much more serene context.

The Prime Minister talked with the President of Funcinpec, Kéo Puth Rasmey, and promised him to allocate five “superior positions” to members of the royalist party. This involves Kol Pheng, current Minister of Education, Veng Sereyvuth, current Minister of Culture, Sun Chanthol, current Minister for Public Transport, Nuth Sokhom, current Minister of Health and Nhiek Buncchay, General Secretary of Funcinpec and current Deputy Prime Minister. They might obtain the positions of Deputy Prime Minister, Secretary of State and of Minister.

Other Funcinpec leaders might also be given government positions, although less prestigious ones. The General Secretary has to draw a list of suitors and submit it to Hun Sen. Contacted by Cambodge Soir Hebdo, Nhiek Buncchay didn’t wish to comment on the subject. The Minister of Information, Khieu Kanharith, was more eloquent: “We’ve been collaborating with Funcinpec for a long time. Even if the party has merely obtained two seats within the government, it can lay claim to several positions within the government”. It would be like a bowl of fresh air for the royalist party in perdition since the 27th of July if these nominations were to be confirmed.

Cambodian, Thai troops pull back from 2nd temple


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Tension at a second border temple that is claimed by both Thailand and Cambodia has eased after troops from the two countries pulled back from the site, Cambodian officials said Wednesday.

Agreement for a troop withdrawal from the grounds of the 13th century Ta Moan Thom temple was reached during a meeting between officials from the two countries late Tuesday, said Maj. Ho Bunthy, a Cambodian army commander in the area.

The sanctuary is located several hundred miles west of Preah Vihear temple, where Cambodian and Thai soldiers have been locked in a standoff for three weeks in a dispute over nearby territory.

Thailand sent troops to the border area after UNESCO approved Cambodia's application to have the temple complex named a World Heritage Site. Some Thai officials say the temple's new status will jeopardize their country's claims to land adjacent to the site.

About 800 troops from Cambodia and 400 from Thailand remain in the Preah Vihear area despite a tentative agreement reached by foreign ministers last week to redeploy them in an effort to ease tensions.

Officials met to mediate the latest dispute in the Cambodian border town of O'Smach in Oddar Meanchey province, about 290 miles northwest of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, Ho Bunthy said.

"Now the situation has eased at the temple. There is no more armed confrontation" between the two sides' soldiers, said Cambodian Maj. Sim Sokha, a deputy commander of an army border unit in the area.

He said the 70 Thai and 50 Cambodian soldiers, who faced off at the temple, are now back in their respective camps about 330 yards from the temple.

He said the temple is now open to tourists from both countries.

Meanwhile, moves to ease tension near Preah Vihear temple were picking up new momentum.
In Thailand, Lt. Gen. Nipat Thonglek, the chief of military border affairs, said Wednesday his government will set up a committee to consider redeploying its troops from the border area near the temple.

He said the decision was made at a Thai Cabinet meeting Tuesday. He stressed that redeployment of troops must be conducted in a manner appropriate with the military's "duty to protect the sovereignty" of Thailand.

Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith called the Thai Cabinet decision "good news."
"We welcome it, and the sooner the redeployment takes place the better," he said.

The dispute surrounding Ta Moan Thom started when Cambodian officials said some 70 Thai soldiers started occupying the temple site last week and prevented Cambodian troops from entering. Thai military officials countered that their troops had been in the area for years.

Thai army commander Gen. Anupong Paojindasaid said Tuesday the temple is within "Thai territory."

Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh, however, said the temple "is clearly under our sovereignty, and we have to demand it back."

Ta Moan Thom temple was built in the 13th century as a rest house along a road linking the ancient city of Angkor with what is currently northeastern Thailand, said Chuch Phoeun of the Cambodian Ministry of Culture.

NEC: Election shows development of democracy in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) -- The National Election Committee (NEC) announced that the July 27 parliamentary election showed good signs of progress in the development of democracy in Cambodia, the Mekong Times reported Wednesday.

The NEC said that although some problems were raised by political parties, the election has been positively assessed by national and international officials, of which the Cambodian people should be proud.

"Some political parties have said that one million people could not vote, and now they are appealing to citizens to protest against the election results. (But) during a final review of name lists in 2007, 585,723 names were deleted from the list, not one million." NEC was quoted as saying.

The reason for deleting those names was migration, death, duplication or loss of voting rights, it added.

NEC said that name deletion was conducted transparently and carefully and conformed with article 63 and 64 of the Election Law, which requires the NEC to circulate to commune councils the lists of names to be deleted so they can be displayed in order that citizens can review and make protests to political parities and observers with 80 days.

Editor: Mo Hong'e

Cambodia and Kuwait Signed Five Agreements

Posted on 6 August 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 572

“Phnom Penh: Cambodia and Kuwait signed five agreements to improve the cooperation between both countries during a three-day official visit by the Prime Minister of Kuwait, Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Ahmad Al Jaber Al-Sabah, from 3 to 5 August 2008.

“The Prime Minister of Kuwait arrived on 3 August 2008 and was warmly welcomed by Samdech Akak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, other high-ranking officials of the Royal Government of Cambodia, ambassadors to Cambodia, the general public, and many students who were at the Phnom Penh International Airport.

“On the second day of the visit, both sides joined in a signing ceremony of agreements on economic and technical cooperation, on trade, of an agreement to promote and protect mutual investments, of a memorandum of understanding about the foreign affairs of Cambodia and of Kuwait, and a memorandum on civil aviation.

“The Minister of Information Mr. Khieu Kanharith said that this meeting of more than an hour, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 4 August 2008, was an intimate dialogue which achieved the best results toward success. He said in a press conference that Samdech Dekchor welcomed the Kuwait delegation, the first delegation to Cambodia since the national election last week, to strengthen relations between both countries starting a new stage.

“He added that Sheikh Al-Sabah has admired the high percentage of the participation of Cambodian citizens in the election, which shows that it was an election which is democratic and free, as the rate of voters is higher than in other countries in the world.

“Mr. Khieu Kanharith said that the Prime Minister of Kuwait has the intention to create a permanent embassy in Cambodia in order to facilitate diplomatic relations and cooperation in the fields of economy and investments between both countries, and Kuwait wants that Cambodia should also have an embassy in Kuwait.

“Sheikh Al-Sabah said that Kuwait is now preparing to invest in Cambodia and wants to invest also in agriculture as an important sector, so that Cambodia becomes strong in agriculture.

“Mr. Khieu Kanharith said that the Prime Minister of Kuwait suggested that Cambodia and Kuwait should start cultural exchange programs so that citizens of both countries learn to know each other, and that there should be exchanges of delegations from different sectors and on different levels, in order to build up cooperation; also, Sheikh Al-Sabah invited Samdech Dekchor to visit Kuwait, and Samdech Dekchor has already agreed.

“Mr. Khieu Kanharith went on to say that Kuwait wants to establish direct flights from Kuwait also to Cambodia and wants to help to buy agricultural products from Cambodia and to help in the gas and oil fields.

“He continued that in the dialogue, Samdech Dekchor had said that to exchange experiences of economic relations is also strengthening political and diplomatic relations. Samdech said that Kuwait can contact the private sector to buy a plot of land to construct an embassy in Cambodia, but Cambodia, as a first step, will assign an ambassador to the Middle East, to send diplomatic credentials to the government of Kuwait, because Cambodia does not have enough funds to construct an embassy in Kuwait.

“Mr. Khieu Kanharith added that Samdech Dekchor welcomed investments by private companies from Kuwait in Cambodia, saying that there is big potential for Cambodian economic development, and he also welcomed direct flights between Cambodia and Kuwait.

“He went on to say that Samdech Dekchor asked Kuwait to check the possibility to provide loans to Cambodia to further improve the infrastructure, such as roads and the irrigation system. Mr. Khieu Kanharith said that Sheikh Al-Sabah offered two choices – one is investments, and the other is joint investment partnerships which need to be considered later.

“Mr. Khieu Kanharith continued to say that Cambodia asked Kuwait to check the possibility to train Cambodian experts in the fields of gas and oil exploration and production, so that Cambodia will have its own technicians in the future. Samdech Dekchor welcomed the initiate for cultural exchanges, and he also suggested to hold football matches between both countries.

“Sheikh Al-Sabah finishes his official visit to Cambodia on 5 August 2008; Laos is the next destination of his visit.”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1711, 5.8.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Cambodian Court Fights Time in Trying Aging Khmer Rouge Leaders

By Daniel Ten Kate

Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Two of five Khmer Rouge leaders accused of genocide in the 1970s have been hospitalized in the past three months, raising questions about bringing them to justice in a United Nations-backed court before they die.

Former head of state Khieu Samphan, 77, was treated in May for a minor stroke and returned back to jail a few weeks later. Last week, ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary, 82, entered the hospital after doctors discovered blood in his urine during a routine checkup.

``If one of the leaders dies before the trial takes place, the public will judge the tribunal as a complete failure,'' said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which has collected more than 650,000 papers and 6,000 photographs from 1975 to 1979, when one in five Cambodians died through starvation, disease or execution during the rule of the Khmer Rouge.

The health of the five leaders has created tension between a court aiming to uphold international standards of justice and the public's expectation of swift guilty verdicts. The use of civil law for the first time in an international genocide tribunal may further disappoint those who expect dramatic courtroom moments because most of the testimony takes place behind closed doors.

``There are certainly growing expectations among the Cambodian public that every single victim will have the chance to come and tell their full story, lift the weight from their shoulders,'' said Peter Foster, a spokesman for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. ``If we follow the law, it will only be a very few that will actually be able to come forward and testify, and in many cases most of that won't even be public.''

`Pretty Quickly'

The process has progressed ``pretty quickly'' since the tribunal started operating in 2006, Foster said. Cambodia was mired in civil war in the 1980s, and it took almost a decade of negotiations between the government and the UN before the court was created.

During that time, two Khmer Rouge leaders died: Pol Pot, who headed the regime, and Ta Mok, the military chief.

The other defendants facing trial are Ieng Thirith, the 76- year-old wife of Ieng Sary, and Nuon Chea, 82, Pol Pot's second in command. The youngest among the five, Kang Kek Ieu, 65, will likely be the first to go on trial later this year.

Also known as Duch, he oversaw Tuol Sleng prison, a converted elementary school where as many as 20,000 people were tortured and thousands killed.

Mixed Views

On Cambodia's streets, views about the tribunal are mixed. Tu Pothea, whose father was killed during Khmer Rouge rule, said the trial wasn't a ``big deal.''

``Everyone knows they committed the crime, so why do they need to try them now?'' she said from her roadside drink stand in the capital, Phnom Penh.

Those sentiments were echoed by Khieu Kanharith, the government's spokesman.

``People in France and the U.S. try to teach us to think that we need the trial to deal with the past,'' he said. ``We are a Buddhist society. We want a blank page in our history.''

Others say that decades of entrenched fear have caused many victims to bottle up their emotions.

``People are interested in this court but they don't want to show it openly as they are still concerned about their safety,'' said Chum Mey, one of three known living survivors of Tuol Sleng prison.

Chum Mey, 78, was tortured by electric shocks and had his toenails ripped out with scissors while in prison. He said the sight of his former tormentor on trial helped to ``satisfy my longtime dream.''

More than 10,000 people have visited the courtroom and participated in group question-and-answer sessions, Foster said. Once one audience member asks a question and tells a story, ``they all want to come forward,'' he added.

``There is no point in telling a story about such a horrible thing with all the emotion and stress that it would cause if it's going to be for nothing,'' said Foster.

1st group of Cambodian delegation leaves for Beijing

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) -- The first group of Cambodia's Olympic delegation left here on Wednesday for Beijing to attend the Olympic Games, which is scheduled to open on Friday.

The group of delegation has eight members, including a marathon runner, a sprinter and their coach, one swimmer and the coach, one team leader, an official and one doctor.

Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Zhang Jinfeng, who went to the Phnom Penh International Airport to see the delegation off, praised their morale and wished them success.

In addition, a reporter from local Chinese newspaper the Cambodia Sin Chew daily also went with the delegation on Wednesday to cover the Beijing Olympics.

Other delegation members, including Tourism Minister and National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC) president Thong Khon, NOCC secretary general Mea Sarun, another swimmer, an official and two youths attending the Olympic Summer Camp, will depart to Beijing on Thursday.

Cambodia first attended the Olympics in 1959, then quit for a long time due to civil war. It resumed its participation in 1996 to attend the Atlanta Olympics and later sent delegations to the Sydney Games in 2000 and the Athens Games in 2004.

Editor: An

Another temple row heats up

Ta Moan Thom temple is only partly restored as the Fine Arts Department was told to suspend its work years ago due to the unsettled border conflict.

The Bangkok Post
Wednesday August 06, 2008

Ta Moan Thom, like Preah Vihear before it, is now occupied by troops protecting a disputed border, writes Piyaporn Wongruang

Situated on top of a remote hill on the Dong Rak mountain range in Surin's Phanom Dong Rak district, Ta Moan Thom is the latest ancient temple caught up in the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia.

Like the Preah Vihear temple before it, Ta Moan Thom is now occupied by soldiers attempting to protect the boundary line.

''There is almost nothing left of Ta Moan Thom but scars,'' said associate professor Sakchai Saisingh, an archeologist from Silpakorn University, who has been studying Khmer temples in Thailand's northeast.

According to Mr Sakchai, Ta Moan Thom was built around the late 11th century, shortly after Preah Vihear on the same mountain range, in the Baphuon style, a Khmer artistic method dedicated to and influenced by Hindu Gods, and in particular Shiva.

The remains of the temple suggest it was rather compact. It only comprises a main prasat where a linga, built for worshipping, is located. The main prasat is surrounded by galleries.

The temple is accompanied by the two other structures of Ta Moan and Ta Moan Chod, which were built with Buddhism influence about 200 years later, during the time of Jayavarman VII.

These add-ons were a rest house for worshippers and a hospital, respectively. Although Ta Moan Thom temple was smaller than the Preah Vihear temple, it was no less significant.

Sitting on top of a hill, the temple signifies the mountain of Sumeru, the centre of the Buddhist cosmos, where the mortal world is linked to heaven by a naga bridge.

Also of significance is that, according to a study by historian Dhida Saraya, the temple was located on an ancient route between the Lower Cambodia Plain and the Korat Plateau, reflecting the cultural dispersal in the area.

Tharapong Srisuchart, the Thai archeological office's director, said the Fine Arts Department registered Ta Moan Thom as a national heritage site over 70 years ago. It then began restoring the temple as well as the accompanying prasats, although intensive work began around 10 years ago. The restoration of Ta Moan and Ta Moan Chod has now been completed, but not Ta Moan Thom.

This is because the department was instructed to suspend the work years ago by the government, which anticipated problems over the unsettled boundary line.

So far, the department had only put back in place some fallen stone blocks. The top of the main prasat is largely untouched, with several blocks lying on the floor, said Mr Tharapong.

Mr Sakchai said it is important the two countries look beyond the boundary line and find ways to manage unresolved problems.

Fixing an idea on a boundary line and being obsessed with geographical ownership can stir up further conflicts among Thais and Cambo dians, who might be misled into believing that they own properties and land on the other side, leading to attempts to take them back, he said.

''What we have to realise is that some cultural properties represent the past, and that doesn't necessarily mean it has something to do with the present,'' said Mr Sakchai.

''Cultural properties from the past need to be considered under a specific context of time, and they should not be linked indefinitely to one side.''

Ta Moan Thom temple was pushed into the spotlight on Sunday, when Cambodia accused Thai troops of occupying an area it claimed to be on Cambodian soil.

The Cambodian complaint reportedly came after its soldiers were barred from visiting the temple on Saturday. Thai military officers as well as diplomats rejected Cambodia's complaint, saying Thai soldiers have been stationed around the temple for years.

Cambodia's request to UN not yet withdrawn

( - The Thai ambassador to the United Nations (UN), Don Pramudwinai, said Cambodia has yet withdrawn its request for the UN to intervene in the dispute over the border area around the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

According to Mr Don, Thailand’s neighbouring country has only postponed its request for the time being. He said Cambodia can raise this issue again since it is still on the meeting agenda of the UN.

At the same time, Cambodia's Defence Minister Tea Banh reiterated to the local media that Ta Moan Thom temple, another ancient site on the disputed border of both countries, is in the Cambodian territory. He also demanded Thai troops to pull out from the area.

Thailand to pull back troops from disputed temple

The Nation (Thailand)

Thailand will redeploy its troops from the area near Preah Vihear by the third week of this month, before the second ministerial meeting with Cambodia on the border stand-off, Thai government spokesperson Wichianchot Sukchotrat said yesterday.

But Thai troops at Ta Muen Thom temple in Surin would remain, as the temple was believed to be on Thai territory, Army chief Anupong Paochinda said.

Thai foreign minister Tej Bunnag told the Cabinet yesterday he and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong had agreed last week that both sides would move troops from the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara Pagoda area near Preah Vihear to ease tension.

Cambodia has more than 1,000 troops in the area while Thailand has some 400 soldiers nearby.
Both sides would maintain a number of personnel necessary for the protection of their respective national sovereignty, the spokesman said.

The two sides would discuss details and complete the redeployment by the third week of August, he said.

Meanwhile, the dispute over Ta Muen Thom temple in Surin province continues as both sides insist on sovereignty over the area.

A meeting yesterday between Suranaree Task Force commander Kanok Nettaraka-waysana with Cambodia's Odor Meanchey deputy governor San Vanna failed to reach any agreement.

Cambodia's request to have its troops protect the area with Thai troops was rejected, an official said.

San Vanna said Cambodia would not deploy troops to the area in order to maintain peace and good relations with Thailand.

However, a military source said Cambodia's Fourth Army Region deputy commander maj gen Po Heng led some 100 troops to an area 2 km from Ta Muen Thom temple.

Army chief Gen Anupong declined to comment on a report that Cambodia tried to send armed troops across the border with the intention of remaining there.

Thai troops were there to protect sovereignty as the temple was on Thai soil, he said.

"We have told our troops there not to use force or instigate any confrontation at the border," Anupong said.

The Thai side had repeatedly told Cambodians in the area to allow demarcation officials to do their jobs by not deploying troops there, the Army chief said.

Ownership of Prasat Ta Muen Thom is the latest border row following the Preah Vihear dispute.
Last week, armed Cambodian troops tried to cross the border at Surin to visit the temple, only to be turned back at the border.

Ta Muen Thom is part of the Thai-Cambodia border that has yet to be demarcated and agreed on by both countries.

FBI to help in case of slain journalist

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Tuesday, 05 August 2008

CAMBODIAN authorities have accepted the US Embassy’s offer to provide Federal Bureau of Investigation assistance for the probe into the July 11 drive-by shooting of a journalist and his son near Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium.

Khim Sambo, 47, regularly contributed articles to the opposition-aligned newspaper, Moneaksekar Khmer, despite remaining politically independent himself. His assassination was condemned by journalism and rights advocates, and was held up by some as an example of the dangers faced by government critics in Cambodia.

Spokesmen for both the US Embassy and the Cambodian government have welcomed the impending cooperation, although the Cambodians for weeks appeared reluctant to accept the help.

Several senior security officials, speaking to the Post, made clear they did not want the FBI involved in a Cambodian investigation.

“We have enough ability to handle this on our own,” one police officer said on condition of anonymity.

But government spokesman Khieu Kanharith maintained that the FBI’s offer had always been under consideration.

“We never rejected the assistance. It is good to collaborate with the FBI, so when we find the killers, the opposition party will not claim they are fake.”

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak and other security officials could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, the victims’ family welcomed the collaboration.

“We are still living in doubt over my brother’s assassination,” said Khem Laurent. “If the killers are arrested, we will know what was behind the murders.”

Opposition party merger considered

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Tuesday, 05 August 2008

Combined parties could compete with dominant CPP

As election results look increasingly likely to confirm a landslide victory for the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), civil society groups have begun suggesting that the Kingdom’s main opposition parties merge in a bid to better complete with the ruling party.

In an interview Sunday with a civil society radio program, Thun Saray, president of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), said that if the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), Human Rights Party (HRP) and Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP) enter into a coalition, they could pool their political power.

Mu Sochua, the deputy secretary-general of SRP, said by telephone Sunday that the three parties could merge because they share the same goal to eliminate poverty and corruption.

“We could merge into one big vote in parliament, but we have not yet talked about one big party. But we have much optimism to merge,” Mu Sochua said.

Chea Vannath, an independent analyst and former director of the Center for Social Development, said the parties should join to help develop the country, while Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association, also said merging is an important point for the three parties because it would make them stronger.

Chan Sophal also said that a merger would make it easier on voters, explaining that instead of dividing the electorate, it could make for an easier decision to cast a ballot for a single party.

“When three parties merge, they are a good-looking competitor with the CPP because they have equivalent force,” Thun Saray said.

Protesting the election

NRP spokesman Muth Chantha acknowledged that the three parties, who engaged in their share of finger-pointing prior to the July 27 vote, could join. But he said their first priority was to continue contesting the election results.

The opposition is claiming the NEC rigged the vote by eliminating thousands of names from voter registration lists, giving the CPP an unfair advantage.

“We have long time to talk about merging. We will not deny our ability to merge, but what we are focusing on right now is rejecting the election results,” Muth Chantha said.

“We lost because of two reasons: The first is the fraud committed by the National Election Committee (NEC), the second is not having merged into one party,” Muth Chantha said.

Troops at two more temples

Heng Chivoan; Khmer soldiers squat at roadside, 100 metres south of the Preah Vihear temple.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sambath Teth
Tuesday, 05 August 2008

Tempers flare over Thai move on additional disputed sites

CAMBODIA is demanding the removal of Thai troops from two more Cambodian temples in a sign the Preah Vihear dispute is still a long way from resolution.

The latest flare-up focuses on two small temples about 600 metres apart, perched on the ridge of the Dangrek Mountain.

One, Ta Moan Thom, is located on the Cambodian side of the border and was - until the Thais moved in on July 27 - under Cambodian control. The other, Ta Moan Touch, has been under Thai control since 2001, although remains on Cambodian land, officials maintain.

"The two temples are in Cambodian territory," Var Kimhong, chairman of Joint Border Committee (JBC), said on Monday. On Sunday, over 500 Cambodian soldiers from Brigade 42 were deployed to Ta Moan Thom.

"Our armed forces were sent to the temple but Thai soldiers blocked access," said Pov Heng, deputy commander of Military Region 4.

"We are negotiating with Thai side first before we advance on the temple because we do not want fire fights to erupt," Pov Heng added.

"It is another invasion," Phay Siphan, Council of Ministers spokesperson, told the Post, referring to the Thai troops's July 27 occupation of Ta Moan Thom.

High-level meetings between the neighboring countries' respective Ministries of Foreign Affairs will be convened again next week, he added.

Ho Bunthy, deputy commander of Border Military Unit 42, told the Post Monday, "We are waiting for orders to go into the temple and reclaim it."

Thailand renovated Ta Moan Touch and seized control of it in 2001, and was trying to renovate Ta Moan Thom.

The JBC intervened to stop the work as the border demarcation process in the area was not complete, Var Kimhong said.

Although he conceded that Thailand had governed Ta Moan Touch for years, he said the temple was still Cambodian and when the border demarcation was completed it would be returned to Cambodia.

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Over 1 million Visited Cambodia

Focus On Travel News

Written by Ozgur Tore
Tuesday, 05 August 2008

Despite warnings of potential unrest, international visitor arrivals have reached over a million for the first six months of 2008, representing a 13 percent increase over the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Tourism’s Statistical Report. “The number of tourist arrivals in Cambodia is still growing despite border problems with Thailand,” said Kong Sopheareak, the ministry’s director of the Statistics and Tourism Information Department.

“I think the temple tension does not affect the tourists’ arrivals,” said Suos Yara, deputy director general of Cambodia National Tourist Authority.

He said he expects at least 2.3 million tourists by the end of 2008.

“We don’t have any formula to calculate the benefits from tourism, but [the World Trade Organisation] estimates that a single tourist spends around US$600 to US$700 in Cambodia,” Suos Yara said.

Ho Vandy, president of Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said, “Tourist arrivals declined in June for three reasons: the high price of transportation, the election in Cambodia and the temple confrontation.”

Tourist arrivals declined from about 150,000 in May to 130,000 in June, according to the latest Tourism Statistical Report.

Ho Vandy partially blamed widespread media coverage of the temple dispute for scaring tourists away, warning that many may yet cancel their holidays or change their destinations.

He recommended that the government host a press conference to talk about the situation at Preah Vihear temple and project an image of safety and stability to overseas tourism markets, perhaps enlisting the aid of Cambodian embassies.

Source: The Phnom Penh Post

World's primates moving toward extinction, conservation group says

The endangered yellow cheeked crested gibbon (Nomascus gabriellae) as seen from the Phnom Tamao wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia. (Sterling Zumbrunn/Conservation International)

CBC News
Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Nearly half of the world's primate species and subspecies are in danger of extinction, according to a study released Tuesday by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The study — which examined 634 species and subspecies of man's closest relatives, including gorillas, monkeys and orangutans — found that 48 per cent of the distinct kinds of primates were listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.

The main threat to extinction was habitat loss from the burning and clearing of tropical rainforest, but hunting and the illegal wildlife trade were also cited as threats, according to the Switzerland-based conservation group.

"In many places, primates are quite literally being eaten to extinction," said Russell Mittermeier, chairman of the IUCN's Primate Specialist Group and president of Conservation International, in a statement.

"Tropical forest destruction has always been the main cause, but now it appears that hunting is just as serious a threat in some areas, even where the habitat is still quite intact."

More than 70 per cent of primates in Asia are now listed as endangered, the group found.
The review is part of a larger survey of the world's mammals, due to be released in October at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona.

The findings are more alarming than a similar report issued last fall by the same group, then known as the World Conservation Union, which said just under a third of all primates were in danger of extinction.

The previous study looked at the 394 species of primates and did not break these species down into subspecies, as the IUCN study did.

As well, the IUCN study also considered primates listed as "vulnerable" to be in danger of extinction, while the previous study looked only at endangered and critically endangered species.

The distinction between the two conservation categories is a matter of degree. For example, if a decline in the animal's population is one of the measures used to assess the threat level, a vulnerable animal would be one whose population could be observed or estimated to have been reduced by 50 per cent over the last 10 years or three generations, whichever is longer.

Under a similar measure, an endangered animal would have a population reduction of 70 per cent or greater over the same time period.

The IUCN said non-human primates are important to the health of surrounding ecosystems through the dispersal of seeds and other interactions that help spread the range of plant and animal life.

Despite the gloomy outlook, the group found some success stories, with primates such as Brazil's black lion tamarin and golden lion tamarin — the rodent-sized monkeys native to South America — both upgraded from critically endangered to endangered due to conservation efforts.

In a separate report Tuesday, wildlife researchers said they've discovered 125,000 western lowland gorillas deep in the forests of the Republic of Congo, a major increased in the animal's estimated population.

The Wildlife Conservation Society, based at New York's Bronx Zoo, and the Republic of Congo said their new census puts the estimated number of the gorillas at between 175,000 and 225,000.

Ocean Grove woman in Cambodian orphanage blockade

Geelong Advertiser
Danny Lannen
August 6th, 2008

ARMED youths menaced humanitarian and former Ocean Grove resident Geraldine Cox before mounting a blockade at an Australia Cambodia Foundation orphanage.

Foundation representatives said Ms Cox was forced into hiding with staff after they were run out of the Sunrise Angkor orphanage by a renegade gang of about 15 which later blockaded the site.

Military police and government officials were called in to break the blockade.

Foundation project co-ordinator Brenton Whittaker said Ms Cox had shown outstanding bravery in a dangerous situation.

Youths armed with iron bars, bricks and tools had taken control after one of their gang members was asked to leave the orphanage.

Mr Whittaker said the group had attempted to rob the orphanage headquarters and he had been forced to flee.

Ms Cox told him she would come to help him.

"I said don't come up here, it's crazy," Mr Whittaker said.

"She said no 'I'm coming up to support you' because she's fearless that woman.

"She came up and we knew that the children had no food because I couldn't get in because it was blockaded and too dangerous."

The foundation has run the former government orphanage since 2004.

Mr Whittaker said the youths could not be blamed for the dramas.

"They're a product of their environment, people forget the Khmer Rouge only left in 1998, that's not that long ago," he said.

Ms Cox first travelled to Cambodia in 1970 with the Department of Foreign Affairs and has lived in the country since 1996 working with disadvantaged children.

The Preah Vihear temple; After the Olympics

International Herald Tribune
August 5, 2008

The Preah Vihear temple

The article "Dispute over temple ensnared in Thai politics" (July 21) ignored some salient facts, resulting in a misleading picture of Thailand's position on the standoff over the temple of Preah Vihear.

Thailand has strictly complied with the International Court of Justice's 1962 ruling, which pertained only to the temple, not to the boundary line. In 2000, Thailand and Cambodia set up a joint border commission to survey and demarcate the two countries' common land border. Pending this work, both sides agreed not to do anything that might change the environment of the frontier zone. However, Cambodia put in troops, a community and various structures. Thailand lodged repeated protests, to no avail.

When Thailand learned of Cambodia's desire to list the temple as a World Heritage site, we strongly urged Cambodia to do it jointly. This would have made the most sense: Natural access to the temple is from the Thai side and the rest of the complex is within Thailand.

Cambodia, however, decided to go it alone. In its initial application to the World Heritage site committee, Thai territory was included in the area to be designated. After Thailand protested, Cambodia submitted a revised map, proposing for designation only the temple proper. Since it no longer intruded into Thai territory, this was the map that Thailand "signed off on." We had to withdraw our support, however, following the Thai Administrative Court's interim injunction on the issue. This had no effect on the World Heritage committee's decision. While recognizing Thailand's repeated calls for a joint nomination and withdrawal of support, the committee approved the temple's designation on the World Heritage list on its own merits.

Contrary to the article's assertion, therefore, Thailand's response was neither "strangely passive," nor did Thailand fail to "insist on joining Cambodia as a bidder for the Unesco designation."

The Thai government remains optimistic that whatever their differences, both sides will do their best to avoid armed confrontation. In Siem Reap on July 28, our foreign ministers agreed to exercise the utmost restraint and to resolve the issue peacefully through existing bilateral mechanisms. We look forward to resolving the matter amicably with Cambodia.

Chainarong Keratiyutwong Bangkok Director of press division, Department of Information Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thailand

After the Olympics

In his article "Beijing's Catch-22" (Views, Aug. 5), Victor Cha joins the debate concerning the effects of the Olympic Games on Chinese domestic and foreign policy. Cha supports the argument made by other China specialists who claim that Beijing's current policies in Tibet, Sudan and Burma are driven mainly by a desire not to tarnish China's image before the Games.

But what will happen after the Beijing Olympics?

Indeed, if we accept the premise that Beijing is responding primarily to pressures on its image, then what incentives will exist for China to continue behaving responsibly after the Games are over?

Marc Sellès, Montreal

The air is so polluted you can't see across the street. Underage Chinese gymnasts will compete. Some of the press coverage may be censored, along with the Internet. Dissidents have been arrested and Tibetans tortured. No protests will be permitted.

And China was chosen to act as host to the Olympic Games. What am I missing here?

Joseph Distler Villajoyosa, Spain

H.D.S. Greenway: Matters of pride

International Herald Tribune
By H.D.S. Greenway
August 5, 2008

There is nothing like a disputed place to bring incendiary nationalism to the boil. The mother of all examples is Jerusalem. Much of the energy of Europe was taken up in trying to wrest it from Muslims from the 11th to the 14th centuries. Today we are told there will be no progress in settling the 100-year dispute between Jews and Arabs in the Palestinian territories this year because of disagreements over the holy city.

But nations can face off over less exalted territory. Think of the predawn assault by Spanish commandos in July 2002, to force Moroccan soldiers off an uninhabited rock in the Mediterranean. Secretary of State Colin Powell got on the phone to calm the situation, and no one got hurt. The Spanish call the islet "Perejil," while the Moroccans call it "Leila," and both think it's theirs.

A lot of people got hurt when Britain and Argentina went to war over the Falklands in 1982, islands that the Argentines call "Malvinas." It is said that Britain could have resettled the entire population of the Falklands in Scotland for less money than the war cost, but, of course, it had become a matter of national pride, which Argentina lost.

The latest such face-off comes between Thailand and Cambodia over the ancient Khmer temples of Preah Vihear, recently named by Unesco as a World Heritage site.

The temple complex was built between the ninth and 11th centuries, during the heyday of the Khmer empire, before the Thais pushed down in force from China into Southeast Asia. But the Thais soon asserted sovereignty over Preah Vihear, as well as the better known temples of Angkor Wat.

The coming of European colonialism put the squeeze on Thailand, from the British in Burma, and the French in Cambodia and Laos. Thailand maintained its independence, the only country in Southeast Asia to do so, but French Cambodia gained control over both temples.

Preah Vihear is physically more attached to Thailand on the edge of a 1,640-foot cliff overlooking Cambodia. In 1904 the French and the Siamese, as the Thais were then called, convened a boundary commission that seemed to set the border on the watershed, which would have put Preah Vihear inside Thailand. But a subsequent French map in 1907 put Preah Vihear inside Cambodia.

When France fell to the Germans in 1940, Thailand saw a chance to seize western Cambodia.
The Vichy French colonial government, which had made a deal to let Japan use its territory against China, reacted militarily and a short war with Thailand followed in January 1941 - a tiny sideshow to World War II that was rapidly unfolding. An inconclusive land battle, involving French and colonial "Tirailleurs," was followed by a naval encounter in the Gulf of Siam, which the French decisively won. The French dropped a couple of bombs on Bangkok, too.

The Japanese stepped in to arbitrate, and gave much of western Cambodia to Thailand, which took pieces of British territory, too. But the eventual Allied victory in 1945 forced Thailand to disgorge its French and British territories, and Preah Vihear returned to Cambodia.

No sooner had the French given up their Indochina empire in 1954, however, than the Thais moved back into Preah Vihear. They stayed for seven years until an independent Cambodia took Thailand to the International Court of Justice at The Hague in 1962.

Cambodia's case was ably argued by former secretary of state Dean Acheson, and the court ruled in Cambodia's favor. It seems, however, that the court decision left ambiguous the fate of 1.8 square miles around the temple, and it is over that bit that Thai and Cambodian troops faced one another this summer. The poisonous airs of nationalism were fanned by ambitious politicians in both countries.

The International Court of Justice's decision was based on geography and maps, and not over whose culture the temples belong in, but there is no earthly reason that Preah Vihear shouldn't belong to Cambodia with an open border for tourists to reach it from the more accessible Thai side - except for the fact that national passions can usually be counted upon to rise above reason.

Power of ideas can end repressive regime

Pacific Daily News
August 6, 2008

As Premier Hun Sen and the Cambodian People's Party claimed 91 of the 123 parliamentary seats in the July 27 national elections even before election returns were completed, Sen's Information Minister Khieu Kanharith insisted, as the July 29 Cambodia Daily reports, "The people have decided. Please do not preach to them now." He denounced "the arrogance" of those questioning the election results. And Sen announced, those who would like a taste of power should line up, but the "royals" are not wanted.

How have the Cambodian people decided?

One day before the elections, a Human Rights Watch release titled, "Cambodia: Threats, Intimidation Mar Campaign, Unequal Media Access Hampers Opposition Parties," described "conditions are not in place for free and fair elections."

HRW Asia director Brad Adams said, "Elections in Cambodia under existing conditions devalue the process," and "Election observers from genuine democracies would never accept at home the CPP's grip on the media or the fear and intimidation faced by voters and opposition parties."

"The lack of fair access to the broadcast media alone is enough to delegitimize the election," Adams asserted.

But the 10 political parties went into the ring anyway to compete against the CPP in lopsided elections that were expected to guarantee the CPP's victory.

The 1993 United Nations-supervised elections had reasonable chances of being "more" free and "more" fair thanks to international participation. At that time I wrote in "Bleeding Cambodia" in the Sept. 30, 1993 Far Eastern Economic Review, that the Khmer Rouge should not have boycotted those elections. I admit, however, that I have never seen much to be gained by participating in flawed elections organized by a repressive regime.

Of course ballots are definitely better than bullets, but in flawed elections dictators unleash bullets to secure ballots to legitimize their rule. How was it that the winners of the 1993 elections were forced to cede the control of the country to the defeated, who then shared the prime-ministership, and who in 1997 pulled a coup d'etat that killed many, to seize complete power? As the winners were sent running out of town while the world watched, Sen and the CPP established complete control over governmental and administrative machineries. What chances were there for "free" and "fair" elections, and for free choice by the Cambodian people?

The July 30 Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission's "Urgent Appeals Programme" detailed how a relative of a CPP leader and bodyguards assaulted an SRP member of parliament, and the AHRC charged, "Many sons of powerful people engage in this kind of misconduct, with the same impunity."

When Sen and the CPP proclaimed election victory, leaders of four major opposition parties issued a "call on the Cambodian public opinion and the international community not to recognize" the election results that "were manipulated and rigged" by the ruling CPP.

"We need to revote across Cambodia," the Voice of America quoted opposition leader Sam Rainsy as saying. "We appeal to the (European Union) and the international community to deny the results," the VOA quoted the head of opposition Human Rights Party, who expressed the "hope in the future" of an alliance of people "who love justice" to come work together.

Adams advised, "When making their judgments about this election, observers must take into account the entire context of the elections," and "must not fall into the trap of using lower standards for Cambodia."

Local and international election monitors may agree, as the E.U. chief observer put it, the elections "fell short of a number of key international standards for democratic elections," but as the Inter Press Service reports, the opposition's charge of "foul play" has met with "little support" from the monitors, who see more positive than negative in the elections.

Cambodian-American blogger writes, "Democracy in Cambodia is ... Dead." The writer forecasts "plenty of signs of trouble(d) water ahead" for the people and their country and questions why the United States government "overlooked and accepted many flaws, election after election" in Cambodia.

From London, British economist Christopher Windsor's "anger and disappointment" are expressed in an article circulated on the Internet -- it is "a shame ... that the majority of Cambodians (who were able to vote) voted for a dictator once again," Windsor writes, and blasted, "If anything bad happens to Cambodia in the future, we are to blame no one but Cambodians."

Democracy and human rights do not trump the politics of national interests as defined by leaders, and a weak educational system does not produce discerning citizens who are able to assert their rights in a cogent and thoughtful way.

Some Cambodians may see things as bleak. But as quality thinking can be taught, teaching the brain to think better and clearer, and to plan more effectively for the morrows is not beyond the human reach, so a repressive regime can always end by the power of ideas.

A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D., is retired from the University of Guam, where he taught political science for 13 years.

Cambodia tourism up 13 percent, but Thais may turn away

Foreign tourists arrive at a hotel in Phnom Penh

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Tourist arrivals in Cambodia soared 13 percent in the first half of 2008, but the tourism minister warned Tuesday that Thais may avoid the kingdom as a border dispute drags on.

Ministry of Tourism statistics showed that nearly 1.1 million foreigners, including 67,502 from neighbouring Thailand, entered Cambodia from January until June, up 13 percent on the same period last year.

"This is a satisfactory increase," Tourism Minister Thong Khon told AFP.

But he said arrivals of Thai tourists were expected to drop after a territorial dispute on their joint border over land near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, which was listed as a UN World Heritage Site last month.

"We don't expect many more Thai tourists to come because they cannot go see the Preah Vihear temple," Thong Khon said.

Cambodia closed the border crossing from Thailand to Preah Vihear in late June, ahead of the July 15 arrest of three Thai nationalist protesters who tried to illegally cross into Cambodia to reach the temple.

The incident sparked a military stand-off, and more than 1,000 Thai and Cambodian soldiers are now stationed on a patch of disputed land near the ruin.

The tourism ministry did not say how many Thais entered Cambodia at the Preah Vihear crossing this year.

Of all international visitors, more than half flocked to Cambodia's famed Angkor temples in northwestern Siem Reap province, the ministry said.

Those World Heritage-listed ruins have been key in reviving Cambodia's tourism sector since 2003, when a regional SARS panic and anti-Thai riots in the country's capital Phnom Penh drove visitor figures into the ground.

But the government has also begun planning a number of tourism initiatives as part of a broader plan to both keep foreigners in Cambodia longer, and develop some of the country's more impoverished areas.

Tourist arrivals to Cambodia topped two million in 2007, and the sector remains one of the few sources of foreign exchange for the country, where millions live in poverty after decades of civil strife.

Olympic Near-Hopefuls Set for Beijing

Later this week, Cambodia's four Olympic hopefuls will see Beijing's National Stadium, known as the Bird's Nest, for themselves.

By Ros Sothea, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
05 August 2008

After training every day for two months, Cambodia's Olympiads are set to travel to Beijing to compete in the 2008 Summer Games, even if they hold little hope of bringing home the gold.

An excited, smiling Hem Thun Vitiny, an 18-year-old freestyle swimmer, was jogging early Tuesday to strengthen her muscles.

"I have never attended such kind of big Olympic game," she said later. "I hope that I can improve my performance, [but I] don't hope to win medal."

Later this week, she will join her uncle, butterfly swimmer Hem Thun Ponleu, along with marathoner Hem Bunting, no relation, and track sprinter Sou Thet Linda, in Beijing.

Hem Bunting, who claimed that he was ready to contest with other athletes from around the world, said he had little hope to win the medal because he had not been able to train properly.

"I don't dare to hope much because [the competitors] had a lot of training with enough equipment," he said Tuesday. "For us, we don't even have a proper training place and no equipment to train."

Cambodia was allowed to send the four athletes to join only two events, swimming and track, among 40 possible events.

The two swimmers will compete Aug. 14 and 15, while the two runners will compete Aug. 16 and 24.

"Our training was short, and there was a lot of rain in our country," Olympic coach Chay Kimsan said. "So we just hope to get ourselves some improvement."

Meas Sarin, secretary-general of the Cambodia Olympic National Committee, agreed.

"The result will not come up like what our people want because we are still very low and weak," he said.

UN Reviewing Reports of Tribunal Corruption

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
05 August 2008

A UN oversight committee is reviewing allegations of corruption from Cambodian staff at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, a UN spokesman said Tuesday.

The review comes following allegations brought forward in June.

"They came forward themselves, and we applaud them for their bravery and for their willingness," the spokesman, Peter Foster, said. "It is not only important for the United Nations, it's important for the government of Cambodia and for the entire court. At UNDP and the donors, all of them have said that corruption and irregularities will not be tolerated."

The tribunal monitoring group Open Society Justice Initiative in 2007 raised allegations of kickbacks, claiming some Cambodian officials allegedly paid money to join the hybrid tribunal.

"The file is now in New York and is being reviewed," Foster said. "What is being reviewed is to make sure this allegation has merit or does not have merit. And then action will be taken based on the review."

More than one allegation of irregularities and corruption has been filed, he said, declining to comment further.

Council Upholds Fine Against Sam Rainsy

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
05 August 2008

The Constitutional Council announced Tuesday it would uphold a 10 million riel fine, about $2,500, against opposition leader Sam Rainsy, for "insulting" the leaders of the Cambodian People's Party during the election campaign.

The fine stems from a decision by the Kampong Cham Election Committee ahead of the national election, in a province where Sam Rainsy gave speeches and referred to a Global Witness report on illegal logging.

The report, "Cambodia's Family Trees," implicates a number of high-ranking officials and relatives of Prime Minister Hun Sen in illegal logging and corruption and was banned in the country following its publication.

The National Election Committee subsequently upheld the Kampong Cham committee's ruling to fine Sam Rainsy, but it denied a recommendation to disqualify him as a candidate.

The Constitutional Council upheld the NEC decision to keep Sam Rainsy as an eligible candidate.
Constitutional Council President Ek Samol said Tuesday after the hearing that the NEC had decided "in conformity with the law."

"I cannot accept the Constitutional Council's decision," Thach Setha, Sam Rainsy Party representative in the case, said. "It is not fair. I am very disappointed for the Constitutional Council, because [it] does not respect the law. The decision follows politics and the CPP will."

CPP lawyer Benson Samay said the ruling party accepted the decision, "because the CPP wants to have the opposition in Cambodian society."

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said the council showed the complaint following the legal procedure.

"But the Constitutional Council should more clearly interpret the law," he said.

Cheating Continues on Exam Week

By Seng Ratana, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
05 August 2008

As high school exams entered their second day Tuesday, students and controllers both say cheating, corruption and other irregularities plague the process.

Students pass money to teacher administrators, called controllers, to allow for cheating, copying and having answers checked by other students. Some students take tests for others. In some cases, students know the answers to the test ahead of time.

"I hope that I will pass, because I could copy from my friends," a student named Vecheka, 19, said following her exams at Sisowath High School in Phnom Penh. "The teachers were not really strict after we collected money for them."

But cheating is a violation against the next generation, corrupting students when they are young, said Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association.

The high school cheating has become an annual event, but at least one controller said this year, the habit was so ingrained, he could be hurt if he didn't take a bribe.

"I know this is a kind of corruption," said one controller at Boeung Trabek High School, "but if I did not accept it, I can have a security concern after I leave the school."

This year about 79,000 students took exams nationwide.

The Ministry of Education does not recognize the cheating as a widespread problem.

But another controller said the custom was proverbially widespread.

"The collection of money from students has become a usual habit; if pey goes, tro also goes," said the controller, from Phnom Penh's Tuoltompong High School, quoting a proverb about two musical instruments that must be played together.

Two Border Police Shot by Army Soldiers

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
05 August 2008

Two Cambodian customs officials were injured in a shooting by Cambodian soldiers at the Vietnam border Tuesday, after they tried to stop a truck smuggling construction equipment into Cambodia.

Kang Heap, 47, and Chan Chheang, 46, both received injuries, but neither of them was in critical condition, after they were beaten, kicked and accidentally shot by the soldiers, customs officials and border police said.

The two had tried to stop two trucks carrying construction goods at the Longky checkpoint, Bavet commune, Chantria district, Svay Rieng province.

The soldiers were identified as "Mr. Chheang" the son of a high-ranking military official in Phnom Penh, and "Mr. Chap."

Soy Samath, a border policeman in Svay Rieng, said an investigation would follow. No one has so far been arrested.

Tuesday's incident marked the first time Cambodian soldiers have been accused of shooting customs police in Svay Rieng.

Pan Simon, director of the customs department of the Ministry of Finance, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.