Monday, 27 October 2008

Cambodian products find warm welcome at Asean-China expo

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 27 October 2008

Cambodia displayed over 100 products at an exhibition to promote trade and investment between China and Southeast Asian nations

HUNDREDS of Cambodian products were well-received at the fifth annual China-Asean Expo (CAEXPO) in Nanning, China, and have helped to promote bilateral trade between the two countries, Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh told the Post Sunday after returning from the Middle Kingdom.

"Some of the Cambodian goods on display will now be exported and sold in China as a result of the exhibition," Cham Prasidh said at Phnom Penh International Airport after returning with Prime Minister Hun Sen and a number of other high-ranking officials who attended the Asia-Europe (ASEM) meeting in Beijing. "China has many plans for investment in Cambodia," he added.

According to Cham Prasidh, local and foreign investment in the first eight months of the year - excluding that committed to Special Economic Zones - totalled US$8.9 billion, compared with last year's figure of $2.7 billion.

"China remains the first country to invest in Cambodia, this year China has invested more than $1 billion," he said.

"The Chinese government is planning to invest in some mega-projects in Cambodia and they are also encouraging Chinese companies to invest as well."

Cham Prasidh also said the ASEM meeting had not been overshadowed by Cambodia's territorial dispute with Thailand.

"I do not think [the dispute] will affect the economic trade between neighbours and it will return to normal soon," he said."Both prime ministers met in Beijing to promote cooperation," he added.

The expo, which ended Saturday and was sponsored by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is the only international trade fair devoted to the China-Asean Free Trade Area (CAFTA).

More than 80 Cambodian companies attended.

Mao Thora, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, told the Post the expo was key to attracting Chinese investment.

Cambodia goes Baroque

Participants in the upcoming Baroque festival, which starts Thursday in Phnom Penh, rehearse for performance.
The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 27 October 2008

An upcoming International music festival will showcase Europe's Baroque music and perform works by undisputed genius JS Bach in Phnom Penh

THE International Phnom Penh Music Festival is set to begin this Thursday, rewinding 400 years with a Baroque theme, a classical style that emerged in Europe in the 1600s and dominated for 160 years.

The festival marks the culmination of a joint effort between the Art Foundation, the Goethe Institute, the German Embassy and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, and will feature a mixture of Cambodian and international musicians.

All concerts at the festival will be free of charge - a change from the last four years.

"The magic and universal language of music is an elite work, but it is not only for the elite. Our decision to make all the concerts of the festival free was a hard one, but it's in keeping with our mission; to spread music of all sorts throughout Cambodia," said Art Café owner and festival organiser Anton Isselhardt.

Baroque music first appeared at the end of the Renaissance, Europe's intellectual, spiritual and cultural awakening after the Dark Ages.

...we have to be aware of what is happening outside cambodia because we need to be inspired. "

The literal meaning of Baroque is "misshapen pearl", and the style is known for being emotionally intense, with an interest in capturing the objective essence of a singularly strong emotion, such as grief.

The parallel theme of the Thursday festival is the German Bach family, which produced seven generations of musicians and composers. The most famous member of the Bach family is Johann Sebastian Bach, whose key works, Art of the Fugue, the Brandenburg Concertos and Well-Tempered Clavier, marked the peak of the Baroque era and established his reputation as a composer of incomparable genius.

Last year the festival attracted an overall audience of 1,000, and this year the organisers hope to improve on this number, particularly encouraging more Cambodians to attend. Cambodians last year accounted for only 20 percent of the total audience.

Positive globalisation

Professor Sam-Sang Sam, a musicologist at Phnom Penh's Pannasastra University, said he was pleased Cambodia will play host to a festival of foreign music and foreign musicians.

"In terms of music in Cambodia, we are very young, like a baby. We have to be aware of what is happening outside Cambodia because we need to be inspired. This music festival is not dealing with conservation or restoration, but innovation," he said.

"There is so much fear that globalisation will ruin our culture, but this is one very positive side effect of the trend. For young Cambodian musicians, the chance to play with international musicians will greatly benefit their confidence and self-esteem," he added.

Veng Sereyvuth, a senior minister at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, agreed.

"Cambodian society knows quite well that art is an integral part of life. Only in art, ethical, moral, philosophical and even sensual values are transported and continuously evaluated. Especially after great sufferings and a more economically orientated phase of reconstruction, Cambodian society tries increasingly to recover its own richness and is also interested in discovering transcultural values represented by the arts," he added.

"We also know that arts are the best playground for the discourse between nations, ethnicities and individuals."

The first concert of the festival will be held at the Chaktomuk Theatre at 7pm Thursday and will feature four works by various Bach family members, as well as a speech on Baroque aesthetics and thinking by professor Dieter Mack.

Thailand denies damaging Cambodian world heritage temple

A Cambodian guard stands in front of a statue of a lion at Preah Vihear temple

BANGKOK (AFP) — Thailand's foreign ministry on Monday denied Cambodian claims that Thai soldiers had damaged the ancient Preah Vihear temple with rocket fire during a border shoot-out earlier this month.

In a statement, the ministry said Thai soldiers had only fired rifles, and instead accused Cambodian troops of using rockets during the clashes on disputed land on October 15, which left three Cambodians and one Thai dead.

"In accordance with strict orders, Thai troops have not used heavy firearms or rocket launchers near the temple of Pra Viharn (Preah Vihear) and never fired at the temple," the ministry said in the statement.

It said that a number of grenades landed in Thailand's national park near the 11th century Preah Vihear and injured two Thai troops, adding that two unexploded Cambodian rocket rounds had been kept for evidence.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for Cambodia's Council of Ministers, told AFP on Sunday that a staircase and a sculpture were damaged by Thai rocket fire at the Khmer ruins, and said Cambodia had filed a complaint with the United Nations.

Tensions between the two countries flared in July when Preah Vihear was awarded UN World Heritage status, rekindling long-simmering tensions over ownership of land surrounding the temple.

Preah Vihear, with its elegant carvings and crumbling stone staircases, is the most important example of ancient Khmer architecture outside Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat temple complex.
Although the World Court ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia, the most accessible entrance is in Thailand's northeastern Si Sa Ket province.

Thailand, Cambodia to step up efforts to fix border

Thai regional army commander Wiboonsak Neeparn (R) talks with his Cambodian counterpart, General Chea Morn (L), Cambodia general commander of 4th region, before attending the 11th meeting of regional border committee between the 4th military region of Cambodia and the 2rd Army area of Thailand at a hotel in Siem Reap province, 320 km (199 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 24, 2008. (REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea)
By Ian Ransom
October 24, 2008

BEIJING (Reuters) - Thailand and Cambodia struck a reconciliatory note on Friday, putting recent clashes along their disputed border behind them and agreeing to breathe fresh life into long-standing efforts to settle the problem for good.

The leaders of the two Southeast Asian governments met on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe summit in Beijing focused on the global economic crisis.

"We are not just neighbors, we are very good friends indeed," Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornwiwat told reporters after the meeting between Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and his Cambodian counterpart, Hun Sen.

"His Excellency Hun Sen said the incident that already happened is not the kind that both countries want. It happened instantly. That was uncontrollable at the time. But when things come to this point, the two sides have to advise our troops not to have confrontation any longer."

A Thai soldier died on Tuesday from wounds sustained in the latest flare-up on October 15 near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, which is claimed by both countries. Three Cambodian soldiers were also killed.

The confrontation was the most serious border clash in years, although tensions have now eased.
Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters the two sides had agreed to use "existing mechanisms" to solve the border problem.

He pointed to talks this week between military commanders from the two countries to demonstrate progress, adding: "Already, we have had very good results over this question."


The senior military officials met in Siem Reap, site of Cambodia's Angkor temple, to discuss the fighting and other border issues. Customs and immigration officials from the two sides also attended.

In a statement on Friday after that meeting ended, the Thai military said it had achieved its objectives, namely "to develop a good understanding and relationship between the armed forces with a view to easing tension in the border areas."

It said the meeting had discussed how to deal with the narcotics trade, among other things.
Under the Thai constitution, any agreement reached by the government with another state needs parliamentary approval. The army statement said October 28 had been earmarked for parliament to debate border matters, a date mentioned by Sompong in Beijing.

Sompong also said the two countries had to work together to demine the border area.
Cambodia's foreign ministry urged Thailand to stick to existing deals on the border issue, including agreement on where certain parts of the frontier lie and a framework to demarcate the rest of border.

"Cambodia remains fully committed to not encroaching on any inch of Thai territory and would be very pleased if Thailand responded with the same commitment," it said in a statement sent to Thailand's foreign ministry and seen by Reuters on Friday.

The hilltop Preah Vihear temple has stirred nationalist passions in both countries for generations.

The International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962, a ruling that has rankled in Thailand ever since. It did not determine the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the Hindu ruins.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Beijing and Ek Madra in Phnom Penh; Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

The Global Financial Crisis – Sunday, 26.10.2008

Posted on 27 October 2008

The Mirror

After some efforts to play down the severity of the present financial crisis, by now there are, from around the world, voices that say there has never been such a global economic problem since the 1920ies and 1930ies, at that time affecting Europe and the USA. The words of the President of France Nicolas Sarkozy, that New York is the place to meet to discuss solutions for the global finance problems, because the financial crisis had its root causes there, provides a brief sketch of the situation.

At a time when the US Congress, after difficult negotiations, voted to provide US$700 billion to try to prevent a collapse of the US banking system – 350 times more money than the cost of the 18 months of the 1992/93 UNTAC operations in Cambodia! - there was still the opinion that Cambodia might not be affected too much, though the impact of the expiring textile agreements in 2009 would be a difficult challenge for the industry in Cambodia. But for the time being, there was confidence: the international buyers’ forum was still buying garments from Cambodia – where the annual value of the textile Industry was estimated at US$2.6 billion.

It may also be useful to consider how the problems related to textile imports into the USA may affect Cambodia and Thailand, which have a very similar share of the US market: Cambodia has 1.7%, and Thailand has 1.8%; even if their import shares into the US would be affected similarly, their overall economic share at home is quite different – the much larger Thai economy might be able to absorb any changes much more easily than Cambodia, with its heavy dependency on the garment industry.

But any hope may be too optimistic, when we now read that 9,000 factories in Southern China will be closed due to the global economic crisis - as a large share of the Chinese industry depends on purchases from the market in the USA. The seriousness with which the Chinese government is watching these developments becomes clear from some recent self protective decisions: new taxes between 150 and 185% were imposed to keep critical supplies, such as grains and fertilizer, from leaving the country. To what extent the countries next to China and the countries in the ASEAN fellowship will be able to benefit from investment from and commerce with China, as the Prime Minister hoped, will be seen according to the further development of the global crisis.

The international discussion has moved to a different dimension. When the USA provided US$ 700 billion to rescue the US banking industry, foreign observers started to point out that the US was doing, what they had before strictly criticized in other countries: by this enormous financial input into private enterprises it had partly “nationalized” the banking industry. While the term “nationalization” was strictly rejected by the US government, the media and also representatives of some “Western” governments used this term – especially as they were forced to provide huge amounts of financial inputs also into their own banking and insurance systems, which were facing collapse because of their involvement with the US dominated international financial system.

The 23 – 25 October 2008 Asia-Europe Meeting in Beijing provided an international forum to respond to the US President’s invitation for a 15 November 2008 meeting in the USA, to which the so called “G-20” countries are invited: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union; the heads of the World Bank and of the International Monetary Fund were also invited.

Different expectations are announced by the statement of the US President on the one hand, and of the Asia-Europe meeting on the other. The US President voiced his expectations: “As we make the regulatory and institutional changes necessary to avoid a repeat of this crisis, it is essential that we preserve the foundations of democratic capitalism - a commitment to free markets, free enterprise and free trade.” Others in Europe and in Asia apparently blamed the financial crisis on the failure of free-market system based on “market fundamentalist beliefs” in the United States. With quite a different outlook, leaders from Asia and Europe called for new rules for, and stronger regulation of the global monetary and financial system.

Cambodia will inevitably be affected from whatever happens in the global economy. But it is also important that related discussions get going in Cambodia. It was reported from the ASEM Summit that the Prime Minister considers private sector activities as the most important tool for economic growth – seemingly being more on the side of the position of the present US leadership. How is it then to be evaluated that the private sector of the country which has provided most development aid to Cambodia – Japan – has mostly kept away from Cambodia?

The capitalist free market system is driven by different dynamics. The pursuit of personal profit - “greed” as it has been called during the recent discussions – in the absence of social controls, seems to have destroyed the international financial fabric, and there are many warnings that the present crisis is only starting in its initial phase, leading to world wide food scarcity and famine. The European and Asian leadership assembled in Beijing did not call for an abolition of the market system – but to put it under social control and public regulations. Free market systems have been working fairly well in some economically highly developed Asian and European countries. But the major actors on their markets – the economic powers – were to a much higher degree than in Cambodia legally obliged to be transparent in their activities, bound to work according to laws equal for everybody, and to a high degree free from special political pressure.

The recent meeting of the Royal Government-Private Sector Forum had also to deal with the well known problematic of the sanctity and security of long term contracts in respect to the current controversy about the lease contract for the Renakse Hotel, which is intercepted by powerful interests. The economic interests behind the relocation of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, away from its former location into a distant and flooded area, and the sufferings brought about for hundreds of people evicted from the places where they used to live for years – while some of the grand “urban high rise development projects” now stat to feel financial credit restrictions - show that Cambodia is, unfortunately, a model for the sufferings of a socially not controlled free market capitalist society.

We are living in most challenging times.

CAMBODIA: Maoist Bastion Gets Lessons in Market Economics

Pailin, the former stronghold of the Khmer Rouge, struggles to surivive in changed times. Credit:Andrew Nette/IPS

By Andrew Nette

PAILIN, Oct 27 (IPS) - For ex-Maoist guerrillas in the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin, close to the Thai border, the last decade has been a crash course in market economics.

The town of approximately 22,000 went from playing a key role in the country’s long-running civil war, to being feted by Phnom Penh after its defection to the government in 1996 -- and now to its current status as a neglected rural backwater.

Pailin has been hit hard by political instability in Thailand and the long-running standoff between Thailand and Cambodia over the ancient Preah Vihear temple. The once flourishing border trade has been reduced to a trickle and so has the tourist traffic.

‘’It’s been a tough decade,’’ says Koma, a taxi driver who makes a living plying the 83 km road between Pailin and Battambang, Cambodia’s second biggest city. "First the gem stones went, then the timber dried up, now there’s very little business left at all. There are no clubs and not a lot of hotels. It is very quiet."

"For me it is hard to find customers who want to go to from Battambang to Pailin," says Koma gesturing at his empty taxi. "Most of them want to by-pass Pailin and go straight to the Thai border."

"Things are very slow," agrees one of several motorcycle taxi drivers waiting for fares outside the entrance of a Pailin temple. "There are far fewer tourists around now because of the problems in Thailand."

Pailin was a major base in the Khmer Rouge’s nearly 20-year civil war against the Phnom Penh government.

Under the direction of former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary, the town was the centre of an enormously profitable border trade in gems and timber to Thailand, used by the guerrillas to finance their war.

It was also a key entry point for Chinese military and financial assistance to the rebels.

The road between Battambang and Pailin was once of the most hotly contested battle zones in the country, the scene of repeated offensives and counter offensives by the two sides.

Circled by heavily forested hills, a natural barrier against government attacks, Pailin achieved a near mythical status. This was furthered in May 1992 when the Japanese head of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Cambodia and his Australian senior military commander, were prevented from visiting the town by a bamboo pole across the road manned by several young Khmer Rouge soldiers.

The ‘bamboo pole incident’, as it was referred to in the media, revealed the U.N.’s impotence in the face of the Khmer Rouge’s refusal to disarm.

Government forces took Pailin briefly in 1994, only to lose it again when the Khmer Rouge counter-attacked. Government soldiers were said to have been too busy looting to strengthen their position.

The town finally fell in 1996 when Sary defected to the government along with some 3,000 hardened Khmer Rouge soldiers. The move isolated the movement’s hardliners and proved to be the beginning of the end of the civil war.

Sary cut a deal with the authorities pledging to remain neutral in the political in-fighting between the country’s feuding coalition parties in return for a free hand to continue to exploit the area’s gem and timber wealth.

The government feted Cambodia’s newest citizens. Schools and hospitals were built in Pailin, the town hooked up to the national power grid, and promises of generous financial aid were made.

Pailin prospered in the late nineties as Thai gem traders flocked to it and a number of casinos were opened up to attract Thai gamblers.

However, things turned out to be not as rosy as many of its citizens hoped.

Today, it takes four hours to get to Pailin from the Thai capital of Bangkok, around one hours’ travel time more than it takes to complete the bone-jarring journey along the pot- holed road from Battambang.

The local residents say the gemstones, once so plentiful, began to run out in the early part of the decade.

"We still find some gem stones but not as many as before," says Meas, who occasionally pans for stones by hand in a nearby river. "Most of them are gone, especially rubies and sapphires."

"There are some gems left but most of the fields are controlled by the government," he adds.

Khmer Rouge logging in the nineties largely denuded the area’s timber reserves, reducing one of the town’s other sources of income, the manufacture of hardwood furniture.

Large areas surrounding the town have been cleared by agribusinesses to plant crops such as cashews, cassava and fruits.

The casinos have shut up shop and moved to the Thai border. With them have closed many of the hotels built to cater to the gamblers.

Some residents maintain that the smuggling of fuel and cars from Thailand are now major economic activities.

The only new building work underway seems to be on several large villas, "the houses of former members of the Khmer Rouge with money," according to one local who did not want to be named.

"Obviously life is better now that there is no fighting,’’ says Chun Chheonn, a former soldier in the Khmer Rouge. "But things are difficult, especially for people who used to be in the old Khmer Rouge army. The government does not provide them with much assistance."

No one from Pailin’s local government was available to talk about the town’s economic prospects.

When Prime Minister Hun Sen visited, earlier in the year, media reports claimed one of the businesses he proposed for the development of the area was a golf course. There are also plans to establish a special economic zone on the outskirts of the town to lure Thai business.

For the large number of former soldiers whose only marketable skill is fighting, tensions with Thailand over the Preah Vihear temple have resulted in an opportunity of sorts.

According to Chheonn, the military are keen to recruit troops from among the former Maoist guerrillas to send to the disputed temple area. "If they ask me to go to Preah Vihear I will. I’m happy to fight the Thais… as long as Khmers do not fight Khmers."

Meanwhile, the town’s residents are keeping a wary eye on the international criminal tribunal into the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge and the possibility that more individuals may be arrested to join the five currently awaiting trial in Phnom Penh.

The tribunal has been a sensitive subject ever since police swooped down in helicopters and arrested four of the town’s most famous residents, former Khmer Rouge leaders Ieng Sary, his wife Ieng Tirith, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea.

"Everyone is paying very close attention to the trial here in Pailin even if they are nervous to talk about it,’’ says Chheonn.

Neul, who runs a small shop next to Khieu Samphan’s modest single story house, remembers when the police took away took their elderly neighbour.

"His wife bought things at my shop but he never came out," she says. "I want him in jail for what he’s done," says her husband Savy. "No one around here was angry when he was arrested."

Not everyone agrees.

"They [the Khmer Rouge] fought to stop the Vietnamese from taking our country," said Lat Lina, a local businessman. "You can print that the U.N. trial will not bring justice for Cambodia."

"I am glad about the tribunal but I want it to be quick," says Chheonn. "There is a lot of funding for the tribunal but it keeps being delayed. Many of the senior Khmer Rouge leaders are already dead, maybe soon some of those facing trial will die. Who will be left to face justice?"

An autopsy of the Thai-Cambodian information war

By Kavi Chongkitthavorn
The Nation
Published on October 27, 2008

THE FIRST CASUALTY in the Thai-Cambodian conflict is truth. Until today, both countries have continued to insist that the first shot was fired by the other side on October 15 at 2.30pm. In addition, the Cambodian side said its troops captured two Thai soldiers while the Thai army denied the news reports and dismissed the photos showing two Thai prisoners in casual pose released by a major wire service obtained from the Cambodian side as old photos. Several days later, neither side has bothered to substantiate their claims.

Apparently, the two governments were more preoccupied on another front - the information war - how the brief skirmish was reported and perceived by international media and community. Judging from available reports and information, it was obvious Thailand lost the information war to Cambodia. Phnom Penh showed better coordination among various agencies in the capital and along the Thai-Cambodian border in disseminating information from its side.

The Cambodian government, especially Prime Minister Hun Sen and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, shepherded the news headlines with great skill. A few minutes after a meeting and exchanging pleasantries with visiting Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornwiwat in Phnom Penh on October 13, Prime Minister Hun Sen issued an ultimatum for Thailand to remove the Thai troops from the 4.6-square-kilometre overlapping area. He also threatened to take the case to the UN Security Council. Hun Sen's action took the Thai delegation completely by surprise given the nice and cosy atmosphere during the courtesy call.

Since the Thai-Cambodian tension started to simmer in June due to disputes over the World Heritage Site listing of Preah Vihear Temple, which led to sporadic armed clashes, the two countries have met several times. The last two meetings were at the ministerial level between Hor Namhong and former foreign minister Tej Bunnag in August, and the latest round with Sompong recently. They pledged to exercise "utmost restraints" to ensure cessation of fighting along the border. Two Cambodian soldiers were killed in the latest incident and a week before two Thai soldiers were injured by landmines, which the Thai side claimed was newly planted in violation of the 1997 Geneva Convention on Anti-landmines Treaty.

The Cambodian media, coupled with the Phnom Penh-based foreign correspondents, were given wider access to information both in the capital and at the border. Within five hours of the skirmish on October 15, the Cambodian government had already called a press conference as well as provided a briefing to the diplomatic community. The Thai ambassador was also summoned on the same day to the Foreign Ministry.

When shooting started at Huay Tha Mari in Phu Ma Khua, Thai soldiers at the border blocked Thai journalists from entering the conflict areas giving all kinds of excuses. As such, from the Thai side, information and report gathering on-site were limited. Dispatches from Phnom Penh contained more information about the brief clash, including the details of capture of Thai troops.

In more ways than one, the Cambodian media and Phnom Penh-based wire services have portrayed Thailand as a big neighbour, which was trying to divert the domestic attention away from its ongoing political chaos at home. They reflected the Cambodian government's views, widely using quotes from Hun Sen and Hor Namhong. Even Chris Mullins, a British member of Parliament, came out and said that what happened along the border was a result of the actions of the Thai military that turned Thailand's internal problems into a dispute with Cambodia.

Interestingly, the Cambodian media did not touch on the ever-changing positions of Hun Sen regarding proposed negotiations between the two countries. In July, Pnom Penh wanted to Asean to vet the Thai-Cambodian conflict at the Singapore meeting but Thailand opposed the idea saying that they should solve it using bilateral mechanism. Then Hun Sen proposed that the matter should go to the United Nations. Later on, he backtracked. Not long after that, he suggested a mediator should be introduced to help ease the tension. That too was later trumped by another idea of a third party. So far, his views have not got broad support. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made it clear that the issue should be settled bilaterally.

Somehow, Thailand could not match the sophistication of Cambodia's information machinery. Now that the border tension has calmed down, concerned Thai authorities have the opportunity to look back and assess their responses. They have to come to grips with their huge weakness and information loopholes.

First of all, the Thai army still lacks the kind of coordination that could produce rapid response to news reports and disseminating their responses speedily and efficiently. Soldiers in the field are still hostile towards the media's enquiries, creating the impression that they did not trust them and therefore, have something to hide. Phnom Penh-based journalists had access to information at the border's disputed areas, much to the chagrin of Thai journalists.

This weakness has led to the second problem. The information the Foreign Ministry and media obtained from the Thai border was piecemeal and not comprehensive and sometimes inaccurate. For instance, on October 15, the Thai media knew through military sources that fighting had erupted at Phu Ma Khua, which is located on the western side of the Preah Vihear Temple. As it turned out, several kilometres away on the eastern side of the temple, exchange of fire also occurred at Pha Mo E Daeng.

To ensure fast, accurate and systematic news and information dissemination, a media team should be established at the Thai-Cambodian border to deal with information gathering and sharing during the time of crisis. During the Cambodian conflict, the Foreign Ministry set up a regional office at Aranyaprathet to help the Thai armed forces and other government agencies to coordinate with the Cambodian side.
It was interesting to note that before the exchange of gunfire on October 15 afternoon, Nor Namhong called Sompong in the morning and praised the peaceful situation along the border. He also praised Hun Sen for his softer attitude and the appeal for peace. As Sompong was giving a press conference on the same afternoon to report on the progress on Thai-Cambodian talks two days earlier, Sompong found out that fighting had already erupted. He was upset.

Finally, Thai military officials must allow local journalists and Bangkok-based foreign correspondents to have access to the border. Quite often, Thai soldiers on the ground had knee-jerk reactions to journalists covering the conflict. Better handling of the media would go a long way to fight future rounds of the information war.

While the Thai army has shown many weaknesses, it does show some strength and maturity by displaying the utmost restraint. With its overwhelming firepower and greater number of soldiers, the Thai army has chosen to respond to the tension in proportionate ways without any threat of using heavy weapons.

Thailand accused of damaging temple

By The Nation
Published on October 27, 2008

Parliament nod likely this week to begin talks over border

The Thai government would prepare for border talks when Parliament gives it the mandate, most likely this week, even as Cambodia opened a new flank in the conflict, accusing Bangkok of damaging the Preah Vihear Temple.

Parliament would consider the negotiating framework on the provisional arrangement and the negotiating framework of the ThaiCambodian Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC) on October 28 to enable the process of border dispute settlement to begin, said Foreign Minister Sompong Amornwiwat.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, in a meeting with Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat on the sidelines of the AsiaEurope Meeting in Beijing last week, agreed to use existing bilateral mechanisms to end the border dispute peacefully, he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen insisted on preventing recurrence of the border skirmish and to activate the JBC as soon as possible, Sompong said in a television programme yesterday.

"We will continue cooperation on trade and investment as usual," he said.

The Cabinet approved the appointment of Vasin Teeravechyan, former ambassador to South Korea, as the new chairman of the JBC of the Thai side last week.The JBC is the key mechanism to demarcate the boundary of the two countries in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2000.The border dispute was at the centre of the conflict after the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear was chosen as a World Heritage Site, followed by a military standoff in July, and military clashes in the areas earlier this month.

Cambodia has lodged a complaint with the United Nations accusing Thai troops of damaging the ancient Preah Vihear Temple during the border shootout.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for Cambodia's Council of Ministers, told AFP that a staircase and a sculpture of the mythical Naga creature were damaged by rocket fire at the 11thcentury Khmer ruins.

A complaint was filed with the UN cultural body Unesco a few days after the fight erupted on October 15 near Preah Vihear.

"Preah Vihear Temple was intentionally damaged by Thai troops, because we found remnants of grenades... near the temple and there were no Cambodian soldiers stationed nearby," Phay Siphan said.

"The Preah Vihear authority has sent reports and pictures of the damage to Unesco."

The Thai Foreign Ministry has denied the allegation saying Thai troops used only rifles in the battle.

However, rocketpropelled grenades launched by Cambodian side landed on the Thai side near the Twin Stupa and injured two Thai soldiers while some of the RPGs landed in Thailand's Preah Vihear National Park, the ministry said in a statement.

Three Cambodian soldiers and one Thai troop were killed in the clashes this month, which came as a monthslong military standoff between the neighbours erupted into a shootout on disputed land.

Preah Vihear should be left out of politics

Bangkok Post
Monday October 27, 2008

Re: ''Betrayal at the border'' (Bangkok Post, Oct 25). I defy both Thais and Cambodians to stop cattily pointing the finger and instead get to the root of the ongoing military quagmire and boundary dispute between the two countries.

The question should be: ''How could Cambodia ever plant new mines 'deep inside' Thai territory?'' And, most importantly, ''How could the three Thai ultra-nationalists trespass right under the nose of the Thai authorities on July 15 and why did Bangkok take the needless, unprecedented step of deploying troops in response to the lawful detention of the three intruders in lieu of a diplomatic request for their release?''

There are three plausible scenarios. First, either the trio jumped the barbed wire fence of their own free will or in deference to the PAD _ a long-time thorn in Thaksin Sinawatra and his successors' side. In this case, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has no role in the three-month-long conflict.

Second, Hun Sen may have countenanced his former counterpart Samak Sundaravej and incumbent premier Somchai Wongsawat using armed confrontation for mutual benefit, with Hun Sen gaining the edge ahead of the July parliamentary election and the two Thai embattled PMs diverting the PAD's attention in the midst of alarming political turbulence _ as assumed by some analysts. The assumption, however, has proved illogical. For one thing, the stand-off escalated into a tragic skirmish just two weeks ago _ almost three months after Hun Sen won by a landslide. For another, the self-proclaimed People's Alliance for Democracy has plunged Thailand into chaos through its undemocratic anti-government rallies since 2005 _ long before the Preah Vihear temple officially became a world landmark.

Third, sparks were really flying following the unilateral inscription of the 11th century ruin. Samak, under impeachment pressure and so forth, wasted no time turning the public focus to an all-new issue: a so-called ''border row'' with Cambodia. He could have intentionally sent the three Thai extremists, knowing full well that they would be lawfully detained. And when they were arrested, he short-sightedly responded with soldier deployment, knowing precisely that Cambodia would rather bring the case to the ICJ in The Hague or the UNSC than risking a gun battle in the vicinity of its invaluable temple. Phnom Penh did just that. Realising the situation had got out of hand, Samak moved to trick Hun Sen into withdrawing the complaint and resuming further bilateral negotiations. What did Samak and Thailand have to lose?

In summary, Thailand has not only dragged Cambodia into its political mess but has also held the Preah Vihear temple hostage.

Phnom Penh

Minister: Cambodia-Thailand trade to be normal soon

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh said Sunday that the trade between Cambodia and Thailand would be normal soon after a deadly clash at the border.

The armed clash did not impact the economic field for both sides, Cham Prasidh told reporters at the airport after returning from China.

"It is nearly normal. It was not a war yet," he added.

"The Thai side is not crazy to escape from Cambodian market. Cambodia is a main market for Thai products," he said, adding that Cambodia also can make business with others countries.

The Cambodian government has called for calm following last week's border clash that has resulted in the deaths of three Cambodian soldiers and a Thai trooper.

Regional border committees of Cambodia and Thailand on Friday signed an agreement to ease their months-long tension along the border near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear Temple.

In July, tensions ran high after the Preah Vihear Temple was awarded world heritage status by UNESCO, angering nationalists in Thailand who still claim ownership of the site.

The tension later turned into a military stalemate, in which up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops faced off for several weeks.

Editor: Wang Hongjiang
The legendary Angkor Wat temple. Photo / AP

New Zealand Herald, New Zealand

Monday Oct 27, 2008
Tim Roxborogh

We're sitting at the dining room table and no one is saying a word. We all have food balanced on our spoons, mouths open, but the stories from our host are so gripping and monumental that the two haven't quite met. Then all of a sudden: "Who wants to hear a landmine joke?"

Without missing a beat, our Cambodian tour guide and host of tonight's dinner party, Mr Lee, had switched from recounting his survival in the killing fields of the 1970s to a question our tour group was all certain we'd misheard.

We'd been sitting in respectful, awed silence as he told his brave, inspiring life, when suddenly we were immersed in some of that classic foreigner awkwardness as Mr Lee chortled on about Englishmen, Irishmen and Cambodians.

Still, it's fair to say he and his countrymen have probably earned a laugh or two, while we sat around him quietly enjoying food that puts even the delicious Thai and Vietnamese cuisines to shame.

We were in Cambodia's tourist capital, Siem Reap - a place we'd been told would be the highlight of any trip to South East Asia.

Fifteen years ago Siem Reap received 2000 foreign tourists a year, now that figure is two million.

Many step off the plane thinking they're coming to a town called Angkor Wat and just as many think Angkor is the only temple here. In fact, it has become the most famous due to its status as it is the world's single biggest religious building.

The other name never far from anyone's lips here is Angelina Jolie. The actress is revered here, thanks, not so much to her adoption of a Cambodian orphan or her charitable donations, but rather to the fact that 10 years ago her fun but rather silly movie Tomb Raider opened the eyes of the world's tourists to Cambodia.

But why the fuss? And how could a place with that kind of a ridiculous influx of tourists possibly still have any of its original charms?

Thanks to our freshly laminated Angkor temple passes we had three days to find out.

At the end of those three days our tour party is knackered. There have been countless steps up to stunning temples, glorious spires and beautiful carvings; not to mention the realisation that 1000 years ago man was advanced enough to build monuments such as these, yet just 30 years ago he was backward enough to commit the single worst genocide in any country's history.

As recently as the 1990s Cambodia was still reeling from years of war and genocide with a life-expectancy of under 50. While the country is still racked by corruption, high infant mortality and a depressing mistreatment of women, it has pulled itself out of a deep mire remarkably quickly.

People like Mr Lee attribute its new popularity with tourists to the fact that Cambodia is a beautiful, green, tropical country with one of the world's greatest historical and religious sites at Angkor.

The temples are about 1000 years old, but most Westerners didn't even know of their existence until Jolie swashbuckled her way through them.

Add to that the many other temples with their crumbling blocks, dark chambers with tree roots spilling over the walls and this place is worth the hype, and that's without taking into account the most overlooked asset of Siem Reap: the town itself.

It is a tree-laden river town with beautiful French colonial architecture, sensational food, lively backpacker nightlife and tasteful hotels. This could be a city transformed by tourist dollars into a Vegas-like nightmare, yet somehow all the development (while often lavish) seems in keeping with the laidback, tropical paradise vibe Siem Reap has always had. Even the tuk-tuks that line the main drag have a peaceful grandeur.

Tim Roxborogh travelled to SE Asia courtesy of Flight Centre.


1: TA Prohm Temple Not as famous as Angkor Wat, this jungle temple was our favourite and is so surreal you'd swear its 1000-year-old walls were built by Steven Spielberg in the 1980s.

2: Angkor Wat The largest religious structure in the world is a colossus that should be visited as soon as possible: roped-off, no-access areas are increasing due to tourist numbers.

3: Hot-air balloon ride A cheap and brilliant way to get your bearings.

4: Pub Street Where some of the most fun, chilled-out nightlife in Cambodia can be found.

5: The countless markets The largest and cleanest markets in the region are so first-world you forget you're supposedly in one of the poorest countries in Asia.

Thailand: Cambodia talks productive

Sun, 26 Oct 2008

A Senior Thai official describes informal talks with Cambodia aimed at resolving border disputes which recently turned violent as 'productive'.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Sompong Amornvivat said in a national television program Sunday morning that both sides had favored a peaceful solution.

Prime Minister and Defense Minister Somchai Wongsawat met with Cambodian Premier Hun Sen on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Beijing.

Sompong said during a program aired by state-run NBT channel that he planned to ask the parliament to consider the framework of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Border Committee (JBC) this Tuesday.

Last week, Somchai called for bilateral talks at the 7th ASEM, saying it was 'critically important'.

On October 15, border disputes over the 11th century Preah Vihear temple escalated into deadly clashes, in which two Cambodian soldiers were killed and seven Thai troops injured.

Earlier this month, at least one Cambodian soldier and two Thai troops were injured during sporadic exchange of gunfire.

Cambodia confirms ASEAN meeting moved from Bangkok

Monsters and

Asia-Pacific News
Oct 26, 2008

Phnom Penh - Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong Sunday confirmed reports that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting set for Bangkok in December has been moved to the northern city of Chiang Mai amid political unrest.

Hor Namhong was the first non-Thai ASEAN official to officially confirm the move, returning from talks with Thai officials on the sidelines of the two-day Asia-Europe Meeting in Beijing with a delegation headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Continued political disturbances in Bangkok have seen the nation's government house overrun.
Chiang Mai is a major city with an international airport about 700 kilometres north of Bangkok.

Hor Namhong was speaking at a press conference at Phnom Penh International Airport.

The 10-member ASEAN bloc comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam and has forged strong diplomatic and trade links with India, South Korea, Japan and China.

The summit is scheduled for December 15-18, and Thailand has invited UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and the heads of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, despite its internal woes.

Last month, Cambodia expressed doubt that the meeting could be held in Bangkok by Thailand, which currently chairs ASEAN in an annually rotated post. Hun Sen said Thailand's current political turmoil reflected badly on ASEAN, drawing fury from some Thai groups.

Thailand and Cambodia are currently engaged in a protracted border dispute which has several times threatened to turn into all-out military conflict since July, when an ancient Cambodian temple was named a World Heritage site by UNESCO over Thai objections.

The European Union and the United Nations Spend Euro18.7 Million on Four Projects in Cambodia - Saturday, 25.10.2008

Posted on 26 October 2008

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 583

“Phnom Penh: On 24 October 2008, there was a press conference at the headquarters of the United Nations Development Program – UNDP – to announce achieved partnership programs between the European Union and the UNDP in Cambodia to improve the quality of life .

“The European Union provided Euro 18.7 million for the UNDP in Cambodia in the sectors of health, governance, justice, and of rural development.

“During this conference, Mr. Raphael Dochao Moreno, the ChargĂ© d’Affaires of the Delegation of the European Commission to Cambodia, said that the report on that day focused on different achievements of a wide cooperation between the Commission of the European Community and the secretariats, funding agencies, and different programs of the United Nations, particularly in Cambodia, and it focused on the promotion of human rights in development. The cooperation of the European Union and the UNDP with Cambodia intends to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals.

“Mr. Dochao Moreno added that during recent years, the Commission of the European Union had contributed more than Euro 18 million to finance the implementation of different development projects in Cambodia. This development projects relate to the health sector, the improvement of the quality of life, rural development, capacity building for commune councilors, as well as the expenses for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

“As for the expenses in the health sector, Euro 5.7 million go to the Ministry of Health and the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund – UNICEF. As for the strengthening of democracy and the capacity building for village and commune councilors, the UNDP is responsible for its administration by spending Euro 10 million. The UNDP is responsible also for the administration of Euro 1 million for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and of Euro 2 million for rural development.

“At the same time, responding to questions by journalists, who had asked what Cambodia should do to reach its development goals, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative for Cambodia, Mr. Douglas Broderick, said that Cambodia must have good governance, build up human resources, eliminate corruption, organize the tourist sector well, and especially develop investments in the agricultural sector – particularly increasing paddy rice yield for exportation.

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4725, 25.10.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 25 October 2008

UN world heritage temple damaged in Thai clashes: Cambodia

Sun Oct 26,2008

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Cambodia has lodged a complaint with the United Nations accusing Thai troops of damaging the ancient Preah Vihear temple during a border shoot-out earlier this month, an official said Sunday.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for Cambodia's Council of Ministers, told AFP that a staircase and a sculpture of the mythical Naga creature were damaged by rocket fire at the 11th-century Khmer ruins.

A complaint was filed with the UN cultural body UNESCO a few days after the firefight erupted on October 15 near Preah Vihear, a World Heritage Site at the centre of a long-running territorial dispute between the neighbours.

"Preah Vihear temple was intentionally damaged by Thai troops, because we found the remnants of grenades... near the temple and there were no Cambodian soldiers stationed nearby," Phay Siphan said.

"The Preah Vihear authority has sent reports and pictures of the damage to UNESCO."

Three Cambodian soldiers and one Thai troop were killed in the clashes this month, which came as a months-long military standoff between the neighbours erupted into a shoot-out on disputed land.

Tensions between Cambodia and Thailand flared in July when Preah Vihear was awarded UN World Heritage status, rekindling long-simmering tensions over ownership of land surrounding the temple.

Preah Vihear, with its elegant carvings and crumbling stone staircases, is the most important example of ancient Khmer architecture outside Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat temple complex.

Although the World Court ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia, the most accessible entrance is in Thailand's northeastern Si Sa Ket province.

Cambodia says trade will be unaffected by border spat with Thailand

The Earth Times

Sun, 26 Oct 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's trade with Thailand will remain largely unharmed by an increasingly tense border dispute because Cambodia is too attractive a market for Thailand to abandon to China and Vietnam, a minister said Sunday. Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh - addressing reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport on his return from the two-day Asia-Europe Meeting in Beijin - said he did not believe the Thais would "become stupid".

The meeting also saw bilateral talks between Thai and Cambodian officials dealing with fallout from the border dispute which has simmered since July, when the 11th century Preah Vihear temple was awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO over Thai objections.

"If Thailand is not here, Cambodia still has Vietnam and China, but for me, I do not believe Thailand will become stupid and give up a big market," he said, alluding to calls by some political groups to boycott bilateral trade amid nationalistic fervour on both sides.

Prasidh said conflict-related drops in cross-border trade were temporary, noting that in 2007, Thailand had imported more than 1.4 billion dollars of goods to Cambodia, while Cambodia had exported just 40 million dollars worth to Thailand - mostly raw materials.

Cambodia remained an attractive market to investors due to its continued healthy growth but relative under-development, he said, and did not feel threatened by threats of loss of trade from any one market.

"Even though we do not call China to come here, China still wants to come," he said, referring to one of Cambodia's most important trading partners and donors.

Cambodia reports temple damage to UN

Bangkok Post
Monday October 27, 2008

Cambodia has lodged a complaint with the United Nations accusing Thai troops of damaging the ancient Preah Vihear temple during a border shootout earlier this month, an official said yesterday. Phay Siphan, spokesman for Cambodia's Council of Ministers, said a staircase and a sculpture at the ruins were damaged by rocket fire.

A complaint was filed with the UN cultural body Unesco a few days after the firefight erupted on Oct 15 near Preah Vihear, a World Heritage Site at the centre of the long-running territorial dispute.

''Preah Vihear temple was intentionally damaged by Thai troops, because we found the remnants of grenades ... near the temple and there were no Cambodian soldiers stationed nearby,'' Phay Siphan said.

''The Preah Vihear authority has sent pictures of the damage to Unesco.''

The Foreign Ministry on Wednesday denied Thai soldiers had damaged the 11th-century Khmer temple.

The Second Army, in charge of the northeastern region, insisted that no heavy weapons or rockets were used that day.

Phnom Penh's complaint to the UN agency comes as the two countries attempt to resolve the border row, which is centred on the disputed area between Kantharalak district in Si Sa Ket province and Cambodia's Preah Vihear province.

Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat met Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen on Friday in Beijing while attending the Asia-Europe Summit.

Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat said the talks were amicable and quoted Hun Sen as saying the fighting on the border should not have occurred.

The Cambodian leader also supported attempts to prevent future clashes through bilateral talks and the need to urgently untangle the overlapping borders by the Joint Boundary Commission and maintain trade and investment ties.

The government will seek parliamentary approval tomorrow for border negotiations with Cambodia, he added.

Tensions between Cambodia and Thailand flared in July when Preah Vihear was awarded UN World Heritage status, rekindling long-simmering tensions over ownership of 4.6 sq km of land surrounding the temple.

Three Cambodian soldiers and one Thai soldier were killed in the clashes on Oct 15.

Preah Vihear, with its elegant carvings and crumbling stone staircases, is the most important example of ancient Khmer architecture outside Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat temple complex.

Although the World Court ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia, the most accessible entrance is in Kantharalak district.