Saturday, 29 November 2008

Thailand political crisis costs Cambodia $1 mil. a day in tourism loss

Nov 29

(AP) - PHNOM PENH, Nov. 29 (Kyodo)—The ongoing political crisis in Thailand is costing Cambodia some $1 million a day in lost tourism revenue, Cambodian Tourism Association President Ho Vandy said Saturday.

Antigovernment protesters in Thailand have occupied Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports, and three airlines -- Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways and Air Asia -- have canceled 10 daily flights between Cambodia and Thailand.

Echoing the revenue loss in Cambodia's tourism sector, Sathol Miura, head of the Japanese travel agency APEX in Cambodia, said the cancellations of international flights through Thailand are affecting hotels, guesthouses, tourist guides, taxi drivers and restaurants in Cambodia.

But Miura said the unrest in Thailand has had little impact on Japanese tourists traveling on APEX tours to Cambodia, saying they normally fly to Cambodia through Vietnam.

"Some 65 percent of Japanese tourists come to Cambodia through Vietnam," he said.

Miura said more than 2,000 Japanese tourists have visited Cambodia on APEX tours in November, a figure comparable to previous years.

The protesters from the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) are seeking to oust Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat

Police walk away from a confrontation with People's Alliance for Democracy protestors Saturday, Nov. 29, 2008, near Suvarnabhumi international airport in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand's prime minister pledged to use peaceful means to end the siege of the capital's airports by anti-government protesters and demoted the national police chief amid speculation he disagreed with government policy.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Riot policemen march towards a checkpoint near Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport on November 29, 2008. Thousands of protesters have occupied the $4 billion airport for four days, a serious escalation in their campaign to unseat the elected government.REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang (THAILAND)

Thai navy soldiers stand in front of a police barricade at a checkpoint near Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport November 29, 2008. Thousands of protesters have occupied the $4 billion airport for four days, a serious escalation in their campaign to unseat the elected government.REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang (THAILAND)

Riot police sit in the shade of a police truck at a checkpoint near Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport on November 29, 2008. Thousands of protesters have occupied the $4 billion airport for four days, a serious escalation in their campaign to unseat the elected government. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang (THAILAND)

Anti-government demonstrators rally toward Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport November 29, 2008. Hundreds of anti-government protesters forced several dozen Thai riot police to abandon a checkpoint on Saturday as they tightened their siege of the country's main airport, witnesses said.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (THAILAND)

Protesters cook food to feed the ranks of supporters at the Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok, on November 29. Defiant protesters have ignored orders to leave Bangkok's besieged airports and are faced off with Thai police, raising fears of clashes as crippling anti-government demonstrations escalated.(AFP/Hoang Dinh Nam)

Anti-government protesters (left) confront policemen during a protest at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok, on November 29. Anti-government protesters have forced Thai police to abandon vehicles during confontations at Bangkok's airports as fears grow that days of crippling demonstrations will end violently.(AFP/Pairoj)

Thai riot policemen stand guard at a check point near Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport on November 29, 2008. Hundreds of anti-government protesters forced several dozen Thai riot police to abandon a checkpoint on Saturday as they tightened their siege of the country's main airport, witnesses said.REUTERS/Adrees Latif (THAILAND)

Airbus Crash in France Kills 2, 5 Missing

Two people are dead, another five are missing after a plane crash off the southern coast of France. The plane was on a maintenance flight, and due to return to passenger service next month. (Nov. 28)

India Siege Ends, Death Toll Rises

Officials say the death toll in the terrorist attacks on Mumbai has risen to 195 as more bodies have been discovered after commandos ended the siege on a luxury hotel. (Nov. 29)

Thailand undecided on hosting 14th ASEAN summit, while protestors hold the country to ransom

Embattled Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat

Asian Tribune
Sat, 2008-11-29

Bangkok, 29 November, ( While protesters from the anti-Government People’s Alliance for Democracy occupying Suvarnabhumi international airport and Don Mueng Domestic Airport for a fourth day running, Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawathas to decide whether to postpone next month's summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), after several member countries expressed concern over the protest that has closed the kingdom's two main airports, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Thailand is scheduled to host the 14th ASEAN Summit from December 13 to 18 in the northern city of Chiang Mai.

ASEAN Affairs Department director-general Vitthawat Srivihok told reporters that the ministry was preparing two options, either Thailand would proceed with the original schedule in hosting the summit, or the government would delay the event after evaluations indicate that the summit could not run as smoothly as planned.

Also, the international community openly criticized Thai officials on Friday. At a meeting called at the Foreign Ministry to "explain" the situation to ambassadors, the foreign envoys called on the government to clear the Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Thai Prime Minister has transferred the all powerful National Police Chief General Patcharawat Wongsuwan to an inactive post in the prime minister's office and appointed Police General Pateep Tanprasert, Inspector-General as acting national police chief.

No reason was given for the removal and appointment. However it is said that the abrupt transfer of the national police chief came as the Police was authorized to end the demonstrations by thousands People's Alliance for Democracy protesters at Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports.

The state of emergency declared by the embattled cabinet of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat has evoked widespread fears that any attempt to use force to clear Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports could spark a bloody confrontation with the anti-government activists.

An officer at Don Mueang used a megaphone to tell protesters that they had to leave the rally site, otherwise "law enforcement officers will carry out appropriate and necessary measures to solve the situation".

Police began planning what they described as an open operation to reclaim the airports.

Bangkok police chief Pol Lt Gen Suchart Muankaew said after a video conference with the prime minister that he will begin with peaceful means, and try to talk the demonstrators into leaving, but with plans to escalate action.

"We will use the gentle way first. The priority is to negotiate and not crack down immediately.

We are all Thais," regional deputy police commander Pol Maj Gen Piya Sorntrakoon told a news agency.

Thai Police also requested the Thai Attorney General yesterday to revoke the bail for the nine leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy yesterday. But the police request was turn down by the Attorney General’s office stating that the procedure had not been carried out correctly in the request.

The PAD leaders have been freed on bail pending the prosecution review of charges relating to their raids on Government House and the NBT broadcasting station on August 26.

The leaders are Chamlong Srimuang, Sondhi Limthongkul, Pipop Thongchai, Somkiart Pongpaiboon, Somsak Kosaisuk, Suriyasai Katasila, Chaiwat Sinsuwong, Amorn Amornratananont and Therdpoom Chaidee.

Activist Sudchai Boonchai petitioned police to revoke bail by accusing the nine of repeating serious offences following their temporary release. The capital's two major airports, at Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi, are now under siege by the PAD.

Metropolitan Police commissioner Lt-General Suchart Muenkaew said that in accordance with police procedure the PAD leaders would be detained should police decide to disperse the crowds at the two airports.

In the meantime, Airlines began flying stranded air travelers out from Utapao naval base on Friday. But there are tens of thousands of passengers who have missed flights from the four days of unrest that have badly hit Thailand's tourist industry and Utapao is a Vietnam war-era base with few facilities to handle thousands of air passengers.

But according to reports from the protest sites, Somsak Kosaisuk, a core leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy, told a crowd of yellow-shirted supporters occupying Don Mueang airport: "We are not afraid. We will fight to the death, we will not surrender and we are ready."

Top PAD leader Chamlong Srimuang told reporters that "a senior person in the country" had telephoned to ask him to move his protest out of Suvarnabhumi airport, because the closure has severely damaged the economy.

Maj-Gen Chamlong told that he had told the senior person that he will halt all rallies - if the prime minister resigns.PAD founder and core leader Sondhi Limthongkul said that the prime minister had phoned him to suggest a dialogue. "There are no talks," he told reporters.

- Asian Tribune -

U.S. calls for end of Thailand airport standoff

People's Daily Online
November 29, 2008

The U.S. government called on Friday for the end of the standoff at Thailand airports protestingagainst its government.

"While we respect the right to freedom of expression, seizing an airport is not an appropriate means of protest," the State Department's acting deputy spokesman Gordon Duguid said in a statement.

He urged supporters of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD)"to walk away from the airports peacefully," and allow "this situation can be resolved without violence and in accordance with the law."

The air traffic has been paralyzed completely since protestors besieged the Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi international airports at the capital of Bangkok earlier this week out of the PAD's hatred of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Despite Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat's announcement of an emergency decree in the areas of both airports, the crisis continued after anti-government leaders rejected last-ditch attempts to negotiate with the government.

Although airlines have resumed their operations at a naval base, tens of thousands of passengers are still believed to be stranded during the four-day unrest.

Source: Xinhua
Friday, November 28, 2008
Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat [official profile; Nation backgrounder] demoted Police Chief Gen. Patcharawat Wongsuwan to an inactive position within the Prime Minister's office, according to media reports Friday. Patcharawat's removal comes a day after the Prime Minister declared a state of emergency [Financial Times report] because of continuing political protests [Bangkok Post materials] at two airports, Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang [official websites], in the capital Bangkok. The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) [advocacy website, in Thai; advocacy statement, in English] initiated the protests at the airports earlier this week as part of an ongoing effort to bring down Somchai's government. No reason was given for Patcharawat's removal, but it is believed that he was not cooperating with the government's efforts to end the protests. The Thai News Agency has more. China Daily has additional coverage.

PAD protests have been ongoing throughout the year, based on its disapproval of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Somchai is the brother-in-law of Thaksin, who was ousted in military coup in 2006. Somchai took over as prime minister earlier this month after the Constitutional Court of Thailand [official website] ruled that then-prime minister Samak Sundaravej [BBC profile] had violated the constitution [JURIST report] by accepting payment for his appearance on a television cooking program. Critics claim that Somchai is just a proxy for Thaksin, who remains in exile while being tried in absentia for corruption.

Bangkok flights canceled, Vietnamese passengers to be evacuated overland


VietNamNet Bridge - Vietnam Airlines has canceled all its flights to Bangkok until November 29 as the blockade of Suvarnabhumi Airport by protestors continues.

Vietnam Airlines helps stranded passengers return home

Vietnamese tourist companies are trying to evacuate their customers stuck in the Thai capital by land through Laos and Cambodia. Saigontourist said today it would bring 38 people to Ho Chi Minh City through Siem Riep, Cambodia.

Vietnam Airline also said it would operate more flights to Vientiane (Laos) and Phnom Penh (Cambodia) to bring back passengers.

Thai authorities have announced that the airport will remain closed until the 29th.

All flights from Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok have been canceled since the 26th, leaving many Vietnamese stranded in Bangkok.

Of them 330 are Vietnam Airlines passengers.

Families of the stranded people are besieging tourist companies, asking for information about their loved ones.

More information and assistance is available at the Vietnam Airlines office in Bangkok.

Its hotline number is 662 6554137/38/39/40 and 668 18291616. Do Khoi Nguyen is the chief representative of the office.

The airlines’ numbers in other countries are: Vientiane 856 205526374; Siem Riep 855 12357866; and Phnom Penh 855 12809694.

(Source: SGGP)

Cambodia monkey trade continues

International Animal Rescue

Fri 28 November 2008

The illegal trade of rare and endangered monkey species is still rife in Cambodia, according to the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV).

The Phnom Penh Post revealed that Cambodia monkeys are being hunted then put in plastic mesh bags and transported to industrial sized monkey farms, which are then rumoured to supply the world's animal testing industry.

Footage taken by the BUAV shows individuals taking monkeys from nationally protected nature reserves, including long-tailed macaques, which are listed on the Convention of the International Trade in Endangered Species.

Michelle Thew, BUAV chief executive, believes that people will be shocked by the findings.

She told the Phnom Penh Post: "There is growing international concern over the plight of primates; we urge the Cambodian government to protect its indigenous [species]."

Apart from humans, the macaque is the world's most widespread primate and includes 22 species ranging from Africa to Japan.

News brought to you by International Animal Rescue, leaders in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation.

Group heads to Cambodia

Daily Review Atlas
Fri Nov 28, 2008

MONMOUTH — A half dozen Monmouth residents are part of an 11 person mission that left Friday for Cambodia.

The trip is a joint effort between First Christian Church in Monmouth and The Crossing, in Macomb. Larry Moore, Mark McCaw, Jim and Pam Epperson and Marty and Sherry Johnson are all local residents going on the trip, which will return Dec. 9.

During a prayer service prior to their departure Friday, Pastor Jim Epperson reminded everyone the trip was not a vacation, but a chance to spread hope.

A mission went to the same place in Cambodia last January, said Pam Epperson, worship coordinator for First Christian Church. They will be helping and providing medical supplied to girls who were trafficked in the sex slave industry, as well as children whose families are homeless and living as "squatters."

"It's complicated because most of the girls come out of a Buddhist background and think they deserved the horrible things that happened to them," Pam Epperson said. "We give them hope in Jesus Christ, God forgives. It's not their fault."

Planes, Passengers Grounded in Bangkok

Anti-government protesters in Thailand lay siege to the country's main airport, stranding planes and thousands of passengers. Protesters want to see the prime minister thrown out of office.

Thai political unrest closes Bangkok airport .

VN Airlines helps stranded travellers


HCM CITY — Vietnam Airlines will assist passengers stranded at Suvarn-abhumi International Airport in Bangkok by increasing its capacity on flights from Cambodia and Laos.

The national flag carrier said yesterday that it would coordinate with Thai authorities to help 500 passengers currently stranded at the airport.

The passengers will first travel by bus to airports in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh in Cambodia and Vientiane in Laos and then fly on Vietnam Airlines to HCM City or Ha Noi, free of charge.

A Vietnam Airlines representative said the carrier had been coordinating with the Vietnamese embassy and its representative offices in Thailand to perform formalities for the passengers.

Bui Duc Hanh, head of Thai AirAsia’s representative office in Ha Noi, said an additional 300 Thai AirAsia passengers, most of them Vietnamese, were also stranded in Bangkok because the carrier had cancelled flights.

Thai AirAsia tickets in normal circumstances cannot be cancelled or rebooked, but the carrier, because of the situation in Thailand, is allowing passengers to change their booking dates without a penalty.

Passengers would be able to carry over their booking date for 90 days, Hanh said.

Yesterday Thai AirAsia cancelled two flights from Ha Noi to Bangkok in the morning and Vietnam Airlines called off its one daily flight each from Ha Noi and HCM City.

Flights to Bangkok from Ha Noi and HCM City operated by Thai Airways, Thai AirAsia and Air France were also cancelled yesterday and an estimated 2,000 passengers were affected, authorities said. — VNS

Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia further co-operation on development triangle


Leaders of Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia signed yesterday a Vientiane Declaration on strengthening the development triangle co-operation and approved the joint agreement of the fifth summit. These were a part of mechanisms to further their co-operation on development triangle area discussed at fifth summit of the Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh of Laos, his Vietnamese and Cambodian counterparts Nguyen Tan Dung and Samdech Hun Sen in Vientiane on 26 November. At the summit, the joint co-ordination committee has also signed the MoU to build the policy for attracting and provision of facilities to promote trade, investment and tourism in which the mechanism has been asked to determine in order to realise the said MoU.

Mr. Bouasone Bouphavanh, Prime Minister of Laos has said that the signed agreements are very importance and significance because it would be a fundamental principle as well as the key reference for the member country to develop the development triangle area with sustainable, richness and prosperity manner. He added that in order to reach the goal of development triangle, the member country has to double work, particularly to increase the fund to develop the infrastructure and human resources.

During the event, the three sides has agreed to build the forum for business sector and propose to organise the meeting for leaders of three countries with business sector at the next summit. Laos and Vietnam has expressed thanks to Vietnamese government for its great assistance on human resource development. They also agreed to encourage the exchange visit of youth leaders from three countries and considered to organise the meeting for the youth leader of the three countries during the next summit.

On this occasion, the leader of the countries has unanimously agreed that the 5th CLV summit held in Vientiane on 26 November has reached with highest successful and met the target goals.
In addition, the three PMs agreed to propose the ASEAN Secretary - General to ask the Thai government to confirm the hosting of 14th ASEAN Summit.

Stranded tourists try to leave Thailand by Vietnam-era naval base

Passengers wait at U-Tapao international airport - Thai authorities said flights would leave from the small provincial naval base, in Pattaya

From Times Online
November 28, 2008

Sian Powell, in Bangkok

Thousands of tourists stranded in Thailand have started to leave the beleaguered nation via a Vietnam War-era naval base, as the country's government continued its desperate efforts to end the airport blockade imposed by anti-government protesters.

As up to 2,000 Britons waited to be flown out of the resort town of Pattaya - with 40 flights scheduled to fly in and out of U-Tapao naval base airport today - militants already occupying both Bangkok airports threatened to launch an operation to shut down the tiny provincial terminal.

With protesters continuing to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, it emerged that the Thai leader had sacked his national police chief, General Patcharawat Wongsuwanbut, for failing to break three days of blockade that has threatened to cause huge damage to Thailand's previously vibrant business and tourism sectors.

One Briton waiting in Pattaya, Harry Denford, told The Times that he had heard that anti-government militants would also move to shut down the U-Tapao naval base. “We were told the yellow shirts were coming,” he said. “I don’t know if they will be able to take over the base or not.”

A spokesman for the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which took possession of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on Tuesday, said it was entirely possible that PAD supporters would besiege U-Tapao, as they had Suvarnabhumi and the second Bangkok airport, Don Muang.

Narongsak Sangapong, the acting Thai Airlines president, estimated that it would take four to five days to send the 6,000 stranded tourists home. British deputy ambassador Daniel Pruce, who had been briefing frustrated British tourists all day, warned that U-Tapao was "a very small airport” and movement would be slow.

Tonight, the anti-government militants were hunkering down in Suvarnabhumi’s gleaming departures terminal, eating disposable packages of food and listening to speeches from the PAD leaders.

The indications are that the airport occupation is beginning to carve into the stability of Thailand’s economy, which is already reeling from the effects of the international financial crisis.

The Prime Minister has come under extreme pressure to solve the crisis but, although he declared a limited state of emergency, by tonight the police had yet to begin clearing the protesters from the airport.

The Army has made it clear that it will not forcibly remove the hundreds of protesters who had barricaded themselves into the terminal. The military has been scarred by condemnation of their tactics at a PAD protest rally in October, which left two protesters dead and hundreds wounded. The police, too, have been unwilling to take up arms against the protesters.

Nattawut Sai-Kau, a government spokesman, this morning said: “We should do whatever is necessary to open the airports on the basis of non-violence.”

Emergency flights to repatriate stranded passengers from Thailand to Abu Dhabi

By Dr. Abdul Hadi Al Timimi, Abu Dhabi Editor
November 28, 2008

Abu Dhabi: Hundreds of stranded passengers in Thailand will be flown into Abu Dhabi by special relief flights, the first of which will arrive at Abu Dhabi airport on Saturday, a senior Etihad Airways official told Gulf News.

“Those flights have been set up as part of a project to fly back to Abu Dhabi stranded passengers in Thailand after the closure of the country’s major international airports in Bangkok,” said Ann Tulis, manager of Etihad Corporate Communications.

A Boeing 777 with a capacity of 378 passengers will operate from U-Taphao, about 150 kilometres east of Bangkok, to Abu Dhabi.

“We have not managed yet to calculate the number of stranded passengers but we have secured all the permissions to operate the flights”, the Etihad official said. “The plan depends on the availability of the aircraft, the available slots into the airport and will be dependent on the situation in Thailand.”

The airline has been operating a double daily service to the Bangkok airport but was forced to suspend its flights on Wednesday after opposition demonstrators occupied the main international Bangkok airport demanding the prime minister resignation.

The airline official said that her airline Thailand flights have been normally very healthy in terms of seats occupancy which has been as high as 80 per cent of each of the two daily flights.

Etihad Airways have also stationed ground staff in U-Taphao to assist in operating the relief flights.

Vietnamese, Cambodian Navies on joint patrol


KIEN GIANG— Ships from the E naval region of the Vietnamese Navy and the Ream naval base of the Royal Cambodian Navy have completed three joint patrols in the waters and along the sea borders of the two countries in the Gulf of Thailand.

During the patrols, both sides strictly abided by joint-patrol regulations, contributing to public order and security and creating advantageous conditions for people from the two countries to share in one another’s cultures, economies and fishing.

The E naval region and the Ream naval base utilised their communication channels to exchange information and address any issues that arose.

The two sides also co-operated in sea-rescue training, cultural exchanges, and sports to strengthen solidarity, mutual confidence, understanding and respect. — VNS

A schoolies trip far from the gagging crowd

Team Technical Highschool students are building a house in Cambodia.

Miki Perkins Education Reporter
November 29, 2008

THE tail end of the wet season has eroded the soil of the killing fields near Phnom Penh.
It has washed away the mud, revealing pieces of sodden clothing — trousers, skirts, shirts — worn by Cambodians who were killed and buried there during the murderous Pol Pot regime between 1975 and 1979.

This sodden field was the first place 17 Australian teenagers visited when they arrived in Cambodia this week on a different kind of schoolies trip, far from the beer-soaked antics on the Gold Coast.

These students from the northern Victorian towns of Kerang and Cohuna and the Northern Territory town of Jabiru are in Cambodia to build houses — specifically, 15 simple timber-framed houses with concrete floors and corrugated iron roofs for people in the tiny village of Chhak Khlan, about 100 kilometres south of Phnom Penh.

During the past year, students in year 12 from Kerang Technical High School, Cohuna Secondary College and the Northern Territory Open Education Centre, and members of the Kerang Rotary Club, scraped together $20,000 in donations from businesses in their small rural towns. The students also had to find their own air fares.

Yesterday, as they nailed down the final boards and nursed their blisters, an elderly woman told them that the Khmer Rouge had shot her husband in the rice paddies behind the hamlet and killed her son.

Now she will live in one of the new houses with her four grandchildren.

"This has been fairly overwhelming — there are so many things you take for granted, like the life we've got," Cohuna Secondary College student Kasey Barker, 18, told The Age.

"Doing this has definitely opened my eyes to the fact there is more to life than materialistic things."

Kerang student Pearl Dunn, 17, described the sweeping view from the village — forested mountains, green farmland, a lake, silent buffaloes and a gaggle of children who run rings around the visitors.

None of the villagers speaks English, so there is lots of smiling and flowery hand gestures.
"I think it's a lot better (than schoolies) because you don't just go away and drink and take drugs — you see these people," Pearl said.

The Australian students count themselves lucky, but some are familiar with hardship in an Australian context.

Many are from drought-stricken farming families whose incomes have nosedived over the past 10 years. And the town of Kerang remains synonymous with last year's tragic rail crash.

This week the students and seven adults visited the killing fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, and will visit other sites to deepen their cultural understanding.

Kerang Rotary Club member and trip leader Sharon Champion said it was all part of a two-week experience she hoped would help the students bridge the gap between school and the rest of their lives.

"This gives our kids a way of looking at the world that's not self-centred. It really puts the focus on issues outside of what they've grown up with," she said.

Kerang Technical High School students made their first alternative schoolies trip to Cambodia last year. They hope to build a partnership with the Rotary club in Phnom Phen.

The houses were built in conjunction with the Australian-based Tabitha Foundation.

Some Wildlife Managing to Recover: Official

Men Phymean, chief of the wildlife protection office at the Ministry of Agriculture’s forestry department, left, and Phnom Tamao Zoo Director Nhiek Rattanak Pich

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
28 November 2008

Khmer audio aired 27 November 2008 Download (MP3)

Khmer audio aired 27 November 2008- Listen (MP3)

Cambodia’s legacy of war hurt its wildlife diversity, but through conservation efforts, some wildlife is coming back, a forestry official said Thursday.

Elephants, tigers and other species were diminished by remaining landmines, said Men Phymean, chief of the wildlife protection office at the Ministry of Agriculture’s forestry department.

He dismissed criticism that government land concessions and deforestation were to blame.

“We passed through a war,” he said, as a guest on “Hello VOA.” “The war left landmines, that is what is causing the loss of some species. But as we have prepared some conservation zones, the wildlife is returing.”

Responding to worries about land concessions, he said Cambodian law carries stiff penalties, up to 10 years in jail and fines of 10 million riel, about $2,500, for illegal wildlife trade.

Meanwhile, Phnom Tamao Zoo Director Nhiek Rattanak Pich said 25,000 visitors per year helped the facility conserve rare species.

Local Security Bolstered After India Attacks

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
28 November 2008

Security has been reinforced in Cambodia following terrorism attacks in Mumbai left about 120 dead, a senior police official said Friday.

“The national police chief has ordered the strengthening of security for main points,” said Lt. Gen. Sok Phal, deputy national police chief.

Popular tourist hotels and sites, embassies and busy urban centers are seeing increased police patrols and vigilance, he said.

This increased security plan was already in place in Siem Reap, said Siem Reap Police Chief Soart Nady.

“Since the attacks in India, we’ve enforced the security for the sake of tourists,” he said.

About 120 people have been killed and more than 300 injured in shootings, while Indian commandos continued operations to root out the terrorists Friday.

Authorities said at least seven have been killed and several more arrested.

Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed condolences for the attacks Thursday and condemned the terrorists.

Cambodia had its own brush with international terrorism in 2003, when it was discovered that the leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, Hambali, had sojourned in Phnom Penh before he was apprehended in Bangkok.

In November 2000, Phnom Penh suffered a brief attack by a small group of gunmen, the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, which the government labeled terrorists.

Medical School Hopefuls Protest Failure

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
28 November 2008

Khmer audio aired 28 November 2008 - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 28 November 2008 - Listen (MP3)

Prospective students for Phnom Penh’s University of Medicine undertook a third day of demonstrations Friday, angered that a high number of them had failed and swearing to continue protests until they are admitted.

Around 400 would-be medical students have been protesting since Wednesday, with less than 400 out of 1,800 test-takers able to meet the 50 percent minimum score.

Health Minister Mam Bunheng said Friday Cambodia needs “qualified doctors and nurses” and the National Committee of Examinations had judged correctly in admitting only the 369 who passed their entrance exams.

“If you are not qualified enough as a medical student, you cannot be a physician,” he said at a press conference Friday. “For example, if you are operating on someone and cut the wrong artery, and you cut the artery that bleeds a lot, the patient will quickly die.”

Officials from the ministries of Health and Education, the National Committee of Examinations, and several cabinet ministers met with five student representatives and the Independent Teacher’s Association Thursday night to resolve the problem.

At that meeting, officials decided to reduce the entrance score from 50 percent to 25 percent, which would allow an additional 507 students to join the university, filling a total 876 slots.

Even with the entrance score lowered to 25 percent, some students remained dissatisfied.

Students said the university had earlier announced that 1,481 slots would be open and they would continue to demonstrate every day until that many slots were filled.

Of the 936 students who scored below 25 percent on their entrance exams, 605 more need to be admitted to satisfy the demonstrators.

‘Golden’ Ambassador Returns With Memoir

Sichan Siv, as US ambassador to the UN Economic and Social Council in 2004, discusses the US position before walking out to protest a vote giving Sudan a third term on the Human Rights Commission.

By Pich Samnang, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
28 November 2008

Sichan Siv was a victim of the Khmer Rouge. Among the nearly 2 million killed under the regime were 15 members of his family. But Siv Sichan has, as they say in Khmer, floating bones: He not only escaped death under the regime but rose to a high-ranking position in the White House. He arrived for a brief visit to Cambodia this week to discuss his memoir, “Golden Bones,” published earlier this year.

He was appointed in 2001 as US ambassador to United Nation’s Economic and Social Council, having served as deputy assistant to then-president George H.W. Bush in Public Liaison office and as deputy assistant secretary for South Asian affairs, from 1989 to 1993.

The former ambassador told VOA Khmer in Phnom Penh that his successes came from the struggles and hardships he encountered as soon as he set foot in America, in 1976.

“I arrived in Connecticut with $2 in my pocket, and I think I was successful because I had to work,” he said. “I didn’t think of the past; it was agonizing and terrifying. So I thought about the future. I just kept working. I picked apples in Connecticut. I was a taxi driver in New York. And then I received a scholarship and got a master’s in international affairs at Columbia University.”
His rise came from inauspicious beginnings.

Sichan Siv worked for the American relief agency CARE before the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975, five days after he missed the last evacuation helicopter. He had attended a meeting in Kampong Speu province seeking a way to help 3,000 stranded families.

That missed evacuation changed his life. He and his family were moved to Bati district, Takeo province, the birthplace of his already deceased father, as the Khmer Rouge declared Year Zero and began implementing their vision of an agrarian communist utopia.

Sichan Siv had been the only son in his family to attend college, earning a bachelor’s degree at Phnom Penh University. He spoke both French and English, making him a target of the Khmer Rouge guerrillas, who sought out intellectuals for execution. But it was not he who died.

“Among 16 of us, I was the only one who survived after we left Bati,” he said. He survived in silence. “I shut my mouth. I knew nothing, I heard nothing, I saw nothing, I said nothing. I just kept silent.”

The Khmer Rouge cadre would ask him about his background, he said, “but I kept telling them the same thing: I was a worker, worker, worker.”

He found himself working for the regime as a timber hauler in Sisophon, near the Thai border.

“On the 13th of February, 1976, I was sitting on the roof of a truck at the back of a truck. I jumped off and walked three days through the jungle to Thailand,” he said, falling into a pit of bamboo spikes along the way. “I was seriously injured, but I tried to limp to Thailand, where after I arrived, they put me in jail, because I had no documents.”

Once the Thais were convinced he was not a Khmer Rouge soldier, he was released to a refugee camp in Aragn, where he taught English to other refugees. By mid-1976, he was adopted by a family in the US. Thirteen years later, aged 41, he was working in the White House, becoming the 28th US ambassador to the United Nations.

The former ambassador said recently the success in his life was due to luck. He received his Columbia scholarship at a time when the university had announced it would admit people from poor countries. He entered the White House by chance, too, when the first Bush administration was looking for a foreign-language speakers and education in international affairs. (He had been among thousands of volunteer in Bush’s first election campaign, in 1988.)

Despite this seeming luck, some Cambodians view him as a man with golden bones—words that emerged as the title of his memoir, published in July by Harper Collins.

Siv Sichan presented a copy of “Golden Bones” to the National Library on Friday, following a lecture at Pannasastra University of Cambodia Thursday. The former ambassador will attend a book signing at Monument Books in Phnom Penh Saturday evening.

Thai Turmoil Costing Cambodia Millions

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport stands empty Friday, as protests continue to plague Thailand.

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
28 November 2008

Khmer audio aired 28 November 2008 - Download (MP3) Khmer audio aired 28 November 2008 - Listen (MP3)

Thailand’s political crisis is costing Cambodia’s tourism sector $1 million a day in lost revenue, tourism officials say, while worries are growing about security for an upcoming Asean conference and the resolution of a monthslong border standoff.

Anti-government demonstrators have closed Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport in their efforts to oust the prime minister. In Cambodia, 10 flights per day have been canceled between three airlines, and tourism officials say they are missing 2,000 tourists per day as a result.

Ho Vandy, president of the Cambodian Tourism Association, estimated that the average tourist will spend $500 on a four-day trip in Cambodia, amounting to a loss to Cambodia of around $1 million per day.

“The cancellation of international flights affects hotels, restaurants and the work of tour guides, guest houses, taxi drivers, tuk-tuks,” said Bath Sambo, president of the Cambodian Tourism and Service Worker Federation. “We are very concerned about this.”

Officials also said Friday the instability could mean a cancellation of the Dec. 14 Asean meeting, which is to be held chaired by Thailand and held in Chiang Mai.

“In my opinion, the delay of the Asean summit is necessary because of the complicated situation in Thailand, where no one is responsible for the anarchy,” Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said.

The “complicated situation” in Thailand will also adversely affect talks next month, where a joint border committee was expected to discuss demining and demarcation, Hor Namhong said.