Sunday, 1 March 2009

14th ASEAN Summit ends in Thailand 2009-03-01

HUA HIN, Thailand, March 1 (Xinhua) -- The 14th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit closed here Sunday after leaders of ten member states ended their annual discussions on a series of issues including the economic crisis and signed the declaration on the roadmap for an ASEAN Community.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, whose country currently holds ASEAN's rotating chair, said after the conclusion of the summit that the leaders had a very productive meeting on a series of issues which matter not only to the region but to the international community as a whole.

During the two-day summit, leaders of the ASEAN member states focused their discussions on economic crisis, human rights body, ASEAN integration, and other regional issues like Myanmar and immigration.

On economic crisis, ASEAN leaders said that while ASEAN's economic fundamental remain sound, the deepening global economic downturn, coupled with heightened risk aversion in financial markets, have adversely impacted trade and investment in the region.

The leaders stressed the necessity of proactive and decisive actions to restore market confidence and ensure continued financial stability to promote sustainable regional economic growth.

They also agreed to stand firm against protectionism and to refrain from introducing and raising new barriers.

On ASEAN integration, the leaders signed Cha-am Hua Hin Declaration on the Roadmap for an ASEAN Community (2009-2015), setting out the guidelines for the creation of a single free trade area for the region of 800 million people by 2015.

According to the declaration, the ASEAN leaders emphasized that "narrowing the development gap shall remain an important task to ensure the benefits of ASEAN integration are fully realized through effective implementation of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration and other sub-regional framework."

A total of 24 ASEAN related documents were signed or adopted by ASEAN leaders, foreign ministers and economic ministers. These documents include, among others, the issues relating to the ASEAN community building, trade and investment, sub-regional economic cooperation, food and petroleum security.

ASEAN consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Editor: Bi Mingxin

Asean leaders urge economic reform

Al Jaseera
Sunday, March 01, 2009

Southeast Asian leaders have vowed to avoid economic protectionism and called for increased co-operation and reforms to deal with the global financial crisis.

At a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' (Asean) that concluded in Thailand's Hua Hin beach resort on Sunday, leaders of the 10-member nation bloc also signed a free trade deal with Australia and New Zealand.

In a joint statement on Sunday, Asean leaders called for "bold and urgent reform of the international financial system," and they agreed to "stand firm against protectionism".

Asean ministers also signed an energy agreement to allow members to buy oil at a discounted price during times of crisis, and a declaration on setting up an EU-style Asean community by 2015.

Human rights body

An Asean free trade deal with Australia and New Zealand, which could eventually add $48bn to economies in the region, was signed on Friday.

Economic growth is slowing rapidly in the region, which is largely dependent on exports, and many jobs are at risk.

Singapore is already in recession and analysts say Thailand and Malaysia might be next.

Meanwhile, the leaders broadly agreed on the terms of reference for a much-debated human rights body which will be made operational by the end of this year, but is unclear if it will have the power to punish violators.

Activists were angered on Saturday when the prime ministers of Cambodia and Myanmar refused pro-democracy activists from their countries to attend the summit.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, Thailand's prime minister and currently head of the Asean, said the bloc would "try to ensure that there is civil society participation" in its future work.

Abhisit said on Sunday that leaders held an "open discussion" with Myanmar's prime minister, encouraging the country to co-operate with the United Nations on reform and release of political detainees.

ASEAN vows to stand firm against protectionism

Associated Press - March 1, 2009

CHA-AM, Thailand (AP) - Southeast Asian leaders have wrapped up their 14th annual summit by deciding to become more like the European Union.

The 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations has decided to push ahead with ambitious plans to become an EU-style economic community by 2015.

Leaders have agreed to refrain from imposing new trade barriers and say they'll stand firm against protectionism in their quest to create a single market in the next seven years.

The decision comes despite the dual obstacles of the global economic crisis and a dismal human rights record in member country Myanmar.

Myanmar's military junta has ignored global demands to free an estimated 2,100 political prisoners, including a Nobel laureate.

Myanmar and Cambodia refused to hold prearranged talks during the summit with pro-democracy activists from their countries.

ASEAN's goal of forming a single economic market mainly involves lifting trade barriers but not, at this point, adopting a common currency.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Family going around globe to help others survive

Melissa HanelineThe Post and Courier
Joseph, Cara and Samantha Garcia are packing up for the journey of a lifetime — a two-year move to impoverished Cambodia to bring a semblance of basic health care to the central region of the country.

Healing fields

Sunday, March 1, 2009

SUMMERVILLE — Their house is nearly empty, and there's a "For Sale" sign in the yard.

In the past few months, James and Cara Garcia have sold nearly everything they own, taken the rest to Goodwill or the dump.

They got rid of the BMW just last week.

Now they can fit everything they own into a few suitcases and duffle bags — one each for them and their two daughters.

These are not victims of the recession. This is a family that has found a new purpose in life, and it lies on the far side of the world.

This week, the couple — one a paramedic, the other a registered nurse — are moving to the jungles of Cambodia, where they will open a clinic to serve thousands of people who have no medical care and few modern conveniences.

"They've got an old hospital that sits empty most of the year," James said, watching Cara and their oldest daughter, Sam, inventory medical supplies for a shipping manifest. "They said, 'If you come here, we'll let you use it.' The plan is to be there for two years."

Their family members are not thrilled, and they get strange looks from some people when they explain their mission, but the Garcias don't much care.

They have seen a need, something far more significant than a world of shopping malls and fast food, stock markets and bailouts.

"We learned what poor really means," Cara said. "We found out how hard it is for some people just to live."

It all started last April, when James and Cara took a 2 1/2-week vacation to Cambodia, ostensibly to see 1,000-year-old temples. Cara had read a book about them.

The sights that impressed them most had nothing to do with ancient architecture.

For Cara, it was a man lying in the street, too weak to pick up the money people had dropped at his feet.

James was touched most by a 5-year-old girl holding her 3-week-old brother, begging for money to buy some formula, her mother too emaciated to stand and ask for herself.

"We thought all the formula in the world wouldn't help them if they were going to mix it with that dirty water," James said. "That's why two out of 10 kids die there before they are 5 years old."

When they returned to Summerville, neither James nor Cara could stop thinking about what they had seen, that beautiful but impoverished country a world away.

They had learned about the country's sad and violent recent history, killing of between 1 million and 3 million people under a Communist dictatorship that moved in during the Vietnam War.

Things that had meant little when recited on the evening news — Pol Pot, the Killing Fields — took on new meaning when James found the tooth of one of the victims lodged in the sole of his shoe.

It made some of the things here seem virtually meaningless. Cara grew sick of hearing people talk about how to divvy up a more than $700 billion federal bailout when there were some people who died from infection after getting a simple cut.

At first they thought they would take work at a hospital, and then learned there weren't any in the worst parts of the country. They considered joining a missionary, but could not abide by groups that offered medicine only to people who would give up their Buddhist religion.

So they started their own nonprofit, Share the Health Cambodia, and began to collect donations. They picked up surplus supplies from local hospitals, such as a load of vacuum-sealed syringes that the American health care system declares "expired" after a few monthys.

"Tell me how this can expire," Cara said.

Regardless, it is better than what anyone there has now.

The Cambodian government has been welcoming, thanks in part to a member of the country's version of a congress.

The couple is scheduled to meet with the vice president at the royal palace later this month.

Of course, they are expecting a bit of culture shock. They have been promised that they will have electricity, and then they laugh, knowing there are no guarantees in the Third World. The place they are going is called Baray, in the Kampong Thom province, in the middle of the country.

They expect culture shock, and to eat a lot of fish and water buffalo, which is what passes for beef there. They plan to live in a hut on stilts. It has to sit high because of the rainy season, monsoons that last four hours a day for several months. The monsoons bring the snakes, including king cobras.

Samantha, 12, jokes that she wants to get a pet mongoose to protect her — the kid apparently has been reading Rudyard Kipling. Her father jokes that a mongoose is nothing but a super-aggressive ferret, perhaps not the best pet.

The move will be, the Garcias admit, hardest on the girls. Moira, 10, is content to follow her mother to the end of the earth, but Sam was not crazy about the idea at first.

She's better with it now, mainly because "all my friends have moved away." At first, she was adamantly opposed to the move.

"I gave in," she joked.

The Garcias expect that it will take two years to get things going. They have enlisted a Buddhist monk to help ingratiate themselves to the locals because many are understandably wary of Americans. After all, they are the ones who left the land mines that injure and kill so many of them.

"We don't want to put a Band-Aid on it, we want to train the locals to do it," James said.

They expect to have the help of doctors to handle procedures beyond their abilities. Mainly, the things they can do — stop infections, administer first aid — will save many lives.

The Garcias are putting their own money into this, and taken donations, but those are hard to come by in these times. They will make do. Nothing is very expensive there, and they figure now, with the recession, it's the perfect time to take a timeout.

"I'm trying to think of what I'm going to miss," James said. "I'll be glad to get away from CNN and Fox News."

The nearest McDonald's will be hundreds of miles away, in Thailand, but they expect to have satellite phones and Internet for medical and schooling purposes. And that, coupled with the knowledge that they are doing something meaningful — saving lives — is enough.

And they will always know that, no matter what, they tried to make a difference.

"If it doesn't work, and we come back with our tails between our legs, so be it," Cara said.

But watching the family pack medical supplies, inventorying every syringe, every IV tube, it seems like the Garcias can do whatever they put their minds to.

Cambodia’s missing criminals

Green Left Weekly

John Pilger
28 February 2009

At my hotel in Phnom Penh, the women and children sat on one side of the room, palais-style, the men on the other. It was a disco night and a lot of fun; then suddenly people walked to the windows and wept.

The DJ had played a song by the much-loved Khmer singer, Sin Sisamouth, who had been forced to dig his own grave and to sing the Khmer Rouge anthem before he was beaten to death. I experienced many such reminders in the years following Pol Pot’s fall.

There was another kind of reminder. In the village of Neak Long, a Mekong River town, I walked with a distraught man through a necklace of bomb craters.

His entire family of 13 had been blown to pieces by an American B-52. That had happened almost two years before Pol Pot came to power in 1975. It is estimated more than 600,000 Cambodians were slaughtered that way.

The problem with the United Nations-backed trial of the remaining Khmer Rouge leaders, which has just begun in Phnom Penh, is that it is dealing only with the killers of Sin Sisamouth and not with the killers of the family in Neak Long, and not with their collaborators.

There were three stages of Cambodia’s holocaust. Pol Pot’s genocide was but one of them, yet only it has a place in the official memory.

It is highly unlikely Pot Pot would have come to power had president Richard Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, not attacked neutral Cambodia.

In 1973, B-52s dropped more bombs on Cambodia’s populated heartland than were dropped on Japan during all of the Second World War: the equivalent of five Hiroshimas.

Declassified files reveal that the CIA was in little doubt of the effect. “[The Khmer Rouge] are using damage caused by B52 strikes as the main theme of their propaganda”, reported the director of operations on May 2, 1973. “This approach has resulted in the successful recruitment of a number of young men [and] has been effective with refugees.”

Prior to the bombing, the Khmer Rouge had been a Maoist cult without a popular base. The bombing delivered a catalyst.

What Nixon and Kissinger began, Pol Pot completed.

Kissinger will not be in the dock in Phnom Penh. He is advising US President Barack Obama on geo-politics. Neither will Margaret Thatcher, nor a number of her comfortably retired senior ministers and officials who, in secretly supporting the Khmer Rouge after the Vietnamese had expelled them, contributed directly to the third stage of Cambodia’s holocaust.

In 1979, the US and British governments imposed a devastating embargo on stricken Cambodia because its liberators, Vietnam, had come from the wrong side of the cold war.

Few Foreign Office campaigns have been as cynical or as brutal. At the UN, the British demanded that the now defunct Pol Pot regime retain the “right” to represent its victims at the UN and voted with Pol Pot in the agencies of the UN, including the World Health Organisation, thereby preventing it from working inside Cambodia.

To disguise this outrage, Britain, the US and China, Pol Pot’s principal backer, invented a “non communist” coalition in exile that was, in fact, dominated by the Khmer Rouge. In Thailand, the CIA and Defence Intelligence Agency formed direct links with the Khmer Rouge.

In 1983, the Thatcher government sent the SAS to train the “coalition” in landmine technology — in a country more seeded with mines than anywhere on Earth except Afghanistan.

“I confirm”, Thatcher wrote to opposition leader Neil Kinnock, “that there is no British government involvement of any kind in training, equipping or co-operating with Khmer Rouge forces or those allied to them.”

The lie was breathtaking.

On June 25, 1991, the John Major government was forced to admit to parliament that the SAS had been secretly training the “coalition”.

Unless international justice is a farce, those who sided with Pol Pot’s mass murderers ought to be summoned to the court in Phnom Penh: at the very least their names read into infamy’s register.

Cambodia to apply ASEAN Single Window programme

Thai News Agency MCOT

PHNOM PENH, March 1 (VNA) – Cambodia set to implement a major ASEAN agreement that would drastically cut customs clearance times and allow importers to access the entire region through Sihanoukville Port.

Starting in May, authorities will apply the ASEAN Single Window (ASW), which synchronises customs information systems and allows traders to forward goods to any ASEAN country after clearing one regional port of entry, according to local media.

Under the plan, clearance times would be cut to 30 minutes, from a regional average of four hours, The Phnom Penh Post quoted Ma Sunhout, Deputy Director General at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, as saying.

ASEAN Single Window programme is the single most important customs initiative that will ensure expeditious clearance of goods and reduce the cost of doing business in the regional grouping.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. (VNA)

4 Parties Registered to Join Local Election of Cambodia
Source: Xinhua

Four parties have registered themselves with the National Election Committee (NEC) to participate in the upcoming local poll of Cambodia, Chinese- language daily newspaper the Commercial News said on Sunday.

The major ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), the major opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), the co-ruling Funcinpec Party and the opposition Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP) were the first batch of political forces ready to join the commune councils election, the paper quoted a NEC press release as saying.

Dozens of other small parties haven't responded yet.

The deadline for registration with NEC is March 2 and altogether 193 polling offices have been set all over the country to serve the process.

On May 17, Cambodia will hold its election for positions of district, provincial and municipal councils as part of the government's drive to transfer more decision-making powers to the local level.

The government has planned to deploy 27,133 police forces nationwide to safeguard the election and guarantee safety and order.

Cambodian oil wealth threatens democracy

The National

Jared Ferrie, Foreign Correspondent

March 01. 2009

PHNOM PENH // When oil was discovered off the Cambodian coast in 2005, the government promised to use the profits to lift the country out of poverty. Now, politicians are reacting angrily to warnings that corruption could turn oil into a curse rather than a blessing.

“If mismanaged through corruption or ineptitude, the money generated runs the risk of widening the gap between rich and poor and weakening democracy still further by entrenching the positions of the ruling elite,” said Eleanor Nichol, of Global Witness, a London-based non-governmental organisation that monitors the exploitation of natural resources and international trade systems.

The group’s recent report, Country for Sale, accuses officials of negotiating deals that would benefit “members of the ruling elite and their family members”.

The government barred Global Witness from operating in the country after a 2005 report documented involvement of officials in illegal logging.

Ms Nichol said copies of Country for Sale have been detained at customs. “It is unclear whether this is the result of an official government ban on the report.”

Chan Sophall, president of the Cambodia Economic Association, said he had not read the report, but he shares similar concerns. “The experience in the developing world is that there could be what is called a ‘resource curse’ – too much money wasted, rather than used for economic development.”

Although Cambodia’s oil reserves are relatively modest, they could be a windfall for this impoverished country of 14 million people. But organisations such as the United Nations, the World Bank and the Asia Development Bank have urged Cambodia to put systems in place to make sure the money is used as it should be, Mr Sophall said.

A Feb 5 World Bank report pointed to expected growth in oil and gas extraction, as well as mining. But it warned: “There needs to be a significant upgrade of the sector’s management which, at the moment, is ineffective and opaque.”

Officials have not taken kindly to such criticism, Mr Sophall said. “Advice on how to use the funds didn’t seem to be appreciated by the government.”

He pointed to a comment made by Cambodia’s deputy prime minister, Sok An, in response to a question about how petroleum revenue would be managed. Sok An was quoted in local media in 2007 as saying: “No question is more stupid than this question.”

After Global Witness published its report on Feb 5, Cambodia’s ambassador to the UK, Nambora Hor, accused the organisation of engaging in “smear campaigns”. He urged funders to review the group’s policies and activities.

On Feb 16, Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Sen, lashed out at non-governmental organisations that were critical of his government’s management of oil reserves, calling them “crazy”.

“How could we have committed corruption if the oil resources are still in the seabed?” he asked during an economic conference in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Global Witness and others say the government has failed to build institutions strong enough to monitor the oil industry and make sure the profits are invested in development.

“That’s why we are calling for a moratorium on oil and mining concessions until the basic legal, social and economic frameworks are in place,” Ms Nichol said. “Without this, Cambodia’s extractive industries will be operating in a regulatory vacuum.”

Hun Sen said his government was drafting a new tax revenue law that would include oil, gas and mining. Cambodia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom said the government intends to use oil wealth to fund “improved health, education and social conditions”.

Such assurances have failed to quell the concerns of groups, including the World Bank and Global Witness, that point out that the government has refused to release details about deals signed with oil companies, among them Chevron and BHP Billiton.

Ms Nichol said Cambodia is in danger of following the same path as other developing countries that have discovered oil.

“Newly oil-rich countries with fragile state institutions have repeatedly fallen victim to slow growth despite vast earnings with no ‘trickle down’ effect to benefit the impoverished,” she said. “The risk is that this will exacerbate corruption and authoritarianism.”

In countries from Latin America to Africa and Asia, the discovery of oil has been hailed as the key to moving from poverty to prosperity. But rarely, if ever, has that been the case.

Instead, many developing countries tend to follow the same pattern when oil begins to flow: promises are forgotten as elites pocket the profits; residents of oil-producing areas remain impoverished and often find themselves living in the midst of an environmental catastrophe; social and political unrest follows.

Nigeria, for example, has been forced to cut production by about one-quarter since 2006 because of attacks by insurgent groups in the Niger Delta.

It is Africa’s top oil-producing country, but most Niger Delta residents lack electricity and running water.

And they have lost a valuable source of food as oil has spilt out of pipelines, poisoning soil and polluting waterways where they once fished.

Cambodia’s reserves are nowhere near the size of Nigeria’s, but they could provide enough revenue to help the government wean itself off of international aid, which currently accounts for more than 50 per cent of its annual budget.

In an Aug 2007 report, the International Monetary Fund estimated that Cambodia could gain $174 million (Dh640m) from oil returns when the wells start producing in 2011, rising to $1.7 billion by 2021 before dropping rapidly.

Ms Nichol urged the government to act on the Global Witness report’s concerns. “Cambodia is on the verge of an oil and mining corruption disaster unless governance within the sectors dramatically improves.”

Emerging from decades of conflict, Cambodia’s economy has grown by an average of seven per cent over the past 14 years, the World Bank says. The bank estimated that the number of people living in poverty fell to 30 per cent in 2007 from 50 per cent in 1994. But it predicted that economic growth will slow because of the global economic crisis.

Transparency International ranked Cambodia 166 out of 180 countries on its 2008 annual corruption index.

Diplomacy: Keep the engine running

Joel Brinkley
Saturday, February 28, 2009

Even before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began her trip to Asia last week, she acknowledged that "perhaps we didn't pay an appropriate amount of attention" to the region in recent years.

In fact, the Bush administration insulted Southeast Asia by failing to attend regional meetings that the United States had never missed before. And as Clinton toured the area, she could see that the United States is paying the price.

In all of the states that the Bush administration ignored, China has stepped in as the irreplaceable rich uncle.

From Borneo to Burma, it is China, not America, that Southeast Asian nations now look to whenever they need to build a bridge, a dam, a hospital or have another problem they cannot easily resolve. China's leaders are usually more than happy to oblige.

Consider Indonesia. Clinton spent a day there and praised the nation's democratic institutions. In contrast, Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang spent four days there in December, in part to have a look at a new bridge China is building between Madura Island and the mainland, at a cost of $230 million.

China's largesse does not stop there. Country by country throughout the region, senior Chinese leaders are constant, smiling visitors, and while on these visits they invariably strike new trade deals or make generous financial-aid offers, including these in recent weeks:

-- In Thailand, China provided $500,000 for treatment of victims in a nightclub fire, while also pledging to continue buying most of Thailand's rubber production, despite the economic downturn.

-- In Malaysia, China agreed to a joint venture for pharmaceutical research and pledged funds to pay for new navigational aids in the Straits of Melaka.

-- In Cambodia, China promised $215 million in new aid this year, more than any other country, and is already helping to build roads, dams and other infrastructure.

Of course, the United States also provides many millions of dollars of aid, most of it through the U.S. Agency for International Development. But there's a difference. American aid comes with numerous strings attached. To get it, nations must respond to understandable questions about human rights, women's issues, clean government, environmental concerns ... the list can seem endless.

For example, the United States and dozens of other nations, nongovernmental agencies and donor groups give hundreds of millions of dollars to Cambodia each year - almost $1 billion for 2009. But most of them say they are conditioning that aid on progress tackling endemic corruption, government impunity and other daunting problems.

China worries about none of that. Its foreign policy philosophy of noninterference with other nations' internal affairs proves to be most congenial for the countries it aids. It had only one condition for Cambodia. To get the $215 million, Phnom Penh had to say it agreed with Beijing's one-China policy, a slap at Taiwan.

"Loans or grants from China have released Cambodia from certain kinds of political pressure from international countries," a government spokesman said in December, quoting from a recent speech by Hun Sen, Cambodia's prime minister.

In Washington, meanwhile, before Clinton visited last week, leaders of all the State Department bureaus competed with each other to get their issues, requests and concerns into her talking points. In truth, however, when Clinton first planned her Asian trip, she had no intention of visiting Indonesia, her only Southeast Asian destination.

Her initial plan was to visit Japan, China and South Korea - the very same destinations former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited on her frequent visits to the region.

A senior administration official in Washington told me she added Indonesia to the itinerary only after President Obama asked her to. (He grew up there.)

How did Washington find itself in this fix?

On one of her Asian trips four years ago, Rice flew into a storm of criticism for her decision not to attend the upcoming annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations convention. I was traveling with her, and a senior Asian diplomat told me: "'Lots of people were offended by this decision."

So, to make amends, she took a quick detour from China to visit a Thai school ravaged by the tsunami, rebuilt with U.S. help. Rice's visit lasted 41 minutes; her driver stayed in the car and kept the engine running.

As she left, a Thai reporter asked her: "Why aren't you going to ASEAN?" Thailand's deputy prime minister, who had come along for the visit, snapped: "'Tsunami questions only!'"
Rice said, "I am here to show that I care about Southeast Asia."

Joel Brinkley is a professor of journalism at Stanford University and a former foreign policy correspondent for the New York Times.
To comment to him, e-mail
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Cambodia forms politics, foreign affairs department within defense ministry

PHNOM PENH, March 1 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia has established a special department within its Ministry of National Defense for politics and foreign affairs earlier this week, Chinese-language newspaper the Jian Hua Daily said on Sunday.

The department is obliged to watch and research the political side of the national defense, promote military cooperation with foreign countries, help process visas for the military force, and strengthen international, multi-national and bilateral security cooperation in the framework of the general policy of the government, said the paper.

It will have one director general and 4 vice directors, it added.

For 2009, the Ministry of National Defense has won about 160 million U.S. dollars of government allocation, a 29.6 percent rise over that of 2008, according to the national budget approved by the National Assembly in Dec. 2008.

Editor: Bi Mingxin

Cambodia, Vietnam install one third of all border posts

PHNOM PENH, March 1 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia and Vietnam have installed one third of all their border posts and the whole work will be completed in 2012, Chinese-language newspaper the Sinchew Daily said on Sunday.

Over 100 out of a total of 314 posts were already erected to mark part of the border, the paper quoted officials of the Cambodian National Border Committee as saying.

The process started in 2005 and is expected to finish in 2012 to fully demarcate the 1,270-km-long border, it added.

Cambodia has altogether nine provinces bordering Vietnam.

Editor: Du

Cambodia asks U.S. to help boost its tourism sector

PHNOM PENH, March 1 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia has asked U.S. to provide some help to boost its tourism sector, one of the kingdom's pillar industries, Chinese-language newspaper the Jian Hua Daily said on Sunday.

Tourism Minister Thong Khon made this request while meeting with U.S. Ambassador Carol Rodley here earlier this week, said the paper.

Cambodia expects U.S. to help Cambodia establish a training school of vocational skills and promote its eco-tourism, especially in face of the global financial crisis, said the minister.

Rodley expressed her support of the idea, saying that she will relay the message to the U.S. government in order to help Cambodia develop its human resources in the tourism sector and push forward its eco-tourism.

Cambodia received around 2 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2008, a 5.5 percent rise over 2007, but slightly lower than the government's expectation, according to official figures.

Editor: Bi Mingxin

Door closed for Cambodia, Myanmar reps

Jakarta Post
March 01, 2009

Lilian Budianto, The Jakarta Post, Cha-am, Thailand

The governments of Cambodia and Myanmar have banned two representatives from their own countries from meeting with Southeast Asian state leaders during the official meeting between ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and civil society organizations scheduled Saturday at Cha-am.

Cambodia has refused to let in Pen Somony, a program coordinator for the Cambodia Volunteers for Civil Society. The Myanmar junta has barred the door for Khin Ohmar, the Bangkok-based chair of the Network for Democracy and Development. The two will not be able to join their seven counterparts in the meeting, held as part of the 14th ASEAN Summit program.

The injunction from Cambodia came as a last-minute surprise. Country representatives voiced their objection only a day before the meeting though the list of representatives had been submitted to the ASEAN Secretariat last November, said Yuyun Wahyuningrum of the Bangkok-based Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, which represented Laos and Brunei.

Yuyun said they had anticipated the ban from military-ruled Myanmar but had not expected Cambodian to follow suit, especially since the latter did not specify any reason for a ban that could undercut freedom of expression in the region.

"The Cambodian [NGO] representative feels a bit threatened by the ban and fears returning to his country and has concerns for his safety. The Myanmar representative is based in Thailand and had expected the government's ban because it frequently limits civil society voices this way," she said.

She added only groups from eight of the 10 ASEAN countries had sent representatives to attend the 30-minute meeting, which included statement reading and a question-and-answer session.

"Laos did not participate because of concerns over government crackdowns on activists and Brunei Darussalam did not delegate a representative because it may not have any civil groups," said Yuyun, who was delegated to represent the two absent countries.

She said the meeting - attended by the 10 ASEAN state leaders and the six representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam - ran smoothly despite the bans. Yuyun expressed regret afterward that only Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung answered the five questions put forward by the civil society leaders.

The Malaysian NGO representative, Wathshlah G. Naidu from Asia Pacific International Women's Rights Action Watch, said their questions included public participation in the good governance process, representation on the ASEAN human rights body, migrant workers, the status of Burma (Myanmar) and gender issues.

"In response to the question on the ASEAN human rights body, they said they realized civil society leaders needed to be involved. They also recognized the [current bylaws] draft had no protective mechanisms. They affirmed that, in subsequent discussions, protections should be incorporated within the ASEAN human rights charter as part of its terms of reference," Naidu said.

Naidu said further Abhisit had not responded directly on the issue of Burma but mentioned that ASEAN leaders would have an open discussion to address it. Yuyun added the Thai government had said they would ensure that political development in Burma would continue.

Yuyun also said the Vietnamese government had said it supported the participation of the civil society in community building but it should be within the scope of the ASEAN principle of noninterference.

"Prime Minister Abhisit agreed there is a deficit in the people's participation in ASEAN forum that he wanted to improve. Hopefully, in the future, ASEAN is moving forward into a single society under the new charter," she said, referring to the charter put into force last December.

"However, he emphasized that cooperation between civil society organizations and the ASEAN should be based on the principle of respect for national sovereignty and noninterference."

The King Sends a Letter to Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen - Saturday, 28.2.2009

Posted on 1 March 2009

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 601

“Preah Karuna Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni, the King of the Kingdom of Cambodia, sent a letter with some documents to Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, asking him to check the cutting down of trees and of the forest clearance to claim land ownership, as the report of the president of a Natural Resource Observation and Protection Organization of Cambodia, Mr. Chea Hean, said, in order that Samdech Dekchor takes action according to the law.

“The letter signed by Preah Karuna Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni dated 26 February 2009 to Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, the head of the government, says that he received a letter dated 24 February 2009, as well as some documents from a Natural Resource Observation and Protection Organization of Cambodia, signed by Mr. Chea Hean, asking the King to intervene with Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, regarding collusion of the authorities and of certain officials of the Oral Mountain Animal Refuge, and the authorities in Kiri Sakor district in Koh Kong to cut down trees and to clear forest, to take state land in national natural reserves which are protected by Royal Decree.

“Relating to the letter of the Khmer King, asking Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen to intervene, we could not contact the cabinet of the Prime Minister to know whether this letter has arrived there or not, and whether the King’s letter to Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor was sent while Samdech Dekchor had already left Cambodia to Thailand to attend the 14th ASEAN summit in Hua Hin, and if so, it is expected that Samdech will become aware of this problem only after returning to the country.

“The writer of the letter, Mr. Chea Hean, said on 27 February 2009 that he and his officials are pleased that the letter was sent to Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen. This provides confidence from His Majesty for the report and for some documents which this organization had sent to him, signed on 26 February 2009 and send to Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen, to report to him about the cutting down of trees, and the clearing of forest, to claim land for private ownership, conducted by officials who are directors of the Oral Mountain Animal Refuge in Kompong Speu, and of the Botum Sakor National Park in Kiri Sakor district in Koh Kong.

“It should be recalled that the cutting down of trees in the Oral Mountain Animal Refuge had occurred repeatedly since 2002, with collusion between the director of the Animal Refuge, Mr. Chhun Chhea Heng, and the Oral district police chief, Mr. Dos Sim, as well as district governors and village and commune chiefs. The cutting down of trees in the Botum Sakor National Park, which is protected by Royal Decree, is conducted by the Botum Sakor district police chief, Mr. Touch Sovannarith, who hires citizens to clear forest - and even though the director of the Botum Sakor National Park prohibits it, the activities of the police chief Touch Sovannarith cannot be stopped.”

Khmer Aphivaot Sethakech, Vol. 7, #352, 28-2.2.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 28 February 2009

ASEAN increases counter-terrorism effort

The West Australian
1st March 2009

ASEAN states will intensify efforts to fight militants and pledge to work for the full implementation of a regional counter-terrorism pact this year, according to a draft document.

The document, seen by AFP on Saturday, is to be adopted by the Association of South-East Asian Nations leaders at the end of an annual summit on Sunday.

It says the bloc will "promote effective implementation" of a comprehensive plan of action to fight terrorism and cooperate to address its root causes.

South-East Asia is the base for Jemaah Islamiyah, the militant network blamed for a string of bloody attacks in the region including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people - many of them foreign tourists.

Muslim separatist insurgencies are meanwhile being waged in southern Thailand and on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

The counter-terrorism plan is contained in a blueprint for an ASEAN Political-Security Community to be adopted by South-East Asian leaders on Sunday in the Thai resort town of Hua Hin.

The draft of the document says ASEAN will "work towards the entry into force of the ASEAN Convention on Counter-Terrorism by 2009".

The convention, signed in January 2007, provides a framework for regional cooperation to "counter, prevent and suppress terrorism in all its forms and manifestations".

It calls for the exchange of intelligence and the prevention of one ASEAN member's territory to plan, finance or facilitate attacks on another.

The wide-ranging blueprint also contains ASEAN's commitment to fight corruption, combat maritime piracy and develop an "early warning system to prevent the occurrence/escalation of conflicts".

ASEAN chair and summit host Thailand is embroiled in a border dispute with fellow ASEAN member Cambodia.

ASEAN members Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines have competing claims on the Spratlys island chain in the South China Sea along with China and Taiwan.


ASEAN agrees measures to ease economic crisis: draft

ASEAN heads of state join hands as they gather on stage for a group photo during the opening ceremony of the 14th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in the Thai resort city of Hua Hin, about 200 km (125 miles) south of Bangkok February 28, 2009. The heads of state are (L-R) Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Myanmar's Prime Minister General Thein Sein, Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Saturday February 28th, 2009

(Source : Reuters - Saturday February 28th, 2009 / 19h58)

By Nopporn Wong-Anan

HUA HIN, Thailand (Reuters) - Leaders of Southeast Asian nations have agreed to ease monetary policy and resist protectionism as they fight the financial crisis that is hurting their export-dependent economies, a draft statement showed.

The 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations also vowed to work with the Group of 20 on reforming international financial institutions.

"We agreed that counter-cyclical and more coordinated macroeconomic policies are the best response to this global financial crisis," said the draft chairman's statement to be issued after the summit ends on Sunday.

"Some governments have already implemented fiscal stimulus packages to boost domestic demand and accommodative monetary policy that enable the banking sector to continue their function."

The statement said the leaders were committed "to resist any protectionist measures which would further dampen global trade and slow down the economic recovery" and urged major players in the World Trade Organization to bring about an early conclusion of the Doha round.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said at the start of the summit on Saturday in Thailand's royal seaside resort of Hua Hin: "We will be severely tested from now on, both as a group and as a part of the broader Asia region. As the financial crisis deepens, the world will look toward our region for action and for confidence."


ASEAN has moved toward becoming a single community of 570 million people with a combined GDP of $2 trillion in six years, he said. But leaders are worried about rising unemployment.

Some countries are preparing for elections this year or next. Thailand, which has had four prime ministers in the past year, offers lessons to its neighbors about the dangers of festering political rifts in deteriorating economic conditions.

The summit, scheduled for December in Bangkok, was postponed and moved to Hua Hin due to street protests that included the seizure of Bangkok's main airports.

Singapore's prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, said the world could be in for several more years of slow growth unless the banking system at the core of the crisis was fixed.

"I think the U.S. recession will last this year, maybe a bit longer," he told the Bangkok Post in an interview published on Saturday. "But the concern is what happens after the U.S. recession: whether there is a strong recovery or whether in fact the difficulties will take several more years to work out."

ASEAN officials have argued against protectionism in world trade but have defended their own buy-local campaigns by saying they are consistent with trade rules.

ASEAN signed a Free Trade Agreement with New Zealand and Australia on Friday that Australia says will add $48 billion eventually to economies in the region.


This year's summit theme of "ASEAN Charter for ASEAN Peoples" was meant to introduce a dialogue between the leaders and civil society groups. But it got off to a wobbly start when Cambodia and Myanmar refused to recognize the groups representing their countries.

Exiled Myanmar politician Soe Aung said ASEAN must abandon its tradition of non-interference if such dialogue was to work.

"Until and unless then, this ASEAN human rights body and ASEAN charter will not be effective at all," Soe told reporters.

Abhisit said: "We must take gradual steps and encourage wider participation. This is something new. This is the first time and we will continue to make more progress."

The draft declaration vowed to make a Human Rights Body operational by the end of the year.

A loose informal grouping formed in 1967 under an anti-communist banner at the height of the Vietnam war has now become a legal entity under its landmark charter. But abandoning consensus to become a rules-based group is sorely testing ASEAN's tradition of non-interference.

ASEAN comprises Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei and the Philippines.

(Additional reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan; Writing by Bill Tarrant; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Malaria is not the only enemy

March 1, 2009 0:27

Malaria is deadly enough already, killing over a million people a year, but now the World Health Organization (WHO) warns it could get worse. In parts of Asia malaria is becoming increasingly resistant to even the most modern drugs—largely because of badly-made or counterfeit medicine.

This has happened before. “Resistance along the Thai-Cambodia border started with chloroquine, followed by resistance to sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine and mefloquine, drugs used in malaria control several years ago,” the WHO statement says.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrates increasing resistance in Western Cambodia to the malaria “wonder drug” artemisinin (the basis of Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies, ACT). This complements studies into criminal fakes such as those by Dr Paul Newton of Oxford University. In 2006 his team surveyed artemisinin drugs throughout Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar and found 68 per cent to be sub-standard.

Natural selection alone can cause diseases to mutate, but resistance is greatly exacerbated by growing numbers of counterfeit and sub-standard drugs, especially in poor countries. These often contain some correct active ingredients but not enough to cure, just enough to encourage mutation and resistance.

The fight against malaria has had some success in recent years: in 2007, there were over 75,000 malaria cases in Cambodia and Thailand combined, yet just over 300 deaths. That's an improvement on the 1990s which often saw 1,000 deaths a year in Thailand alone.

The improvement is largely due to access to new and highly effective drugs containing artemisinin—described as “a breakthrough” by the WHO. But now the miracle may be fading.

Malarial resistance to mefloquine and other drugs was overcome by artemisinin combinations but there are no new drugs to replace artemisinin. All the drugs under mid- and late-stage development are combinations using artemisinin alongside another drug. Experts meeting in Phnom Penh in January 2007 gave the newest combination only two years before a change would be required: time is up.

In the city of Pailin in Western Cambodia, near the Thai border, artemisinin efficacy has been declining. The success rate fell from 85.7 per cent in 2002 to 79.3 per cent in 2004, with similar results evident elsewhere along the Thai border. Resistance has also been noted (albeit at lower levels) in China and Vietnam.

WHO assistant director-general Hiroki Nakatani said this week that drug-resistant malaria around the Thai-Cambodian border “could spread rapidly to neighboring countries and threaten our efforts to control this deadly disease.”

If the resistant strains reach Africa, which seems inevitable, tens of thousands more children will die every year as a result. Malaria can be fatal within 48 hours and currently kills a child every thirty seconds, mainly in Africa.

Rich nations have committed billions to fighting malaria, HIV / AIDS and tuberculosis but this is futile if the diseases become resistant.

International donors must pay greater attention to quality and not simply the cheapest deal—of which the Global Fund is guilty. They also need to pay for testing programs that ensure medicines are genuine. It is counterproductive to spend millions of aid dollars on drugs without ensuring that they are real, that they will continue to work in the near future and that they will not increase drug resistance.

Governments in poor countries can also help by reducing (or ideally eliminating) widespread heavy taxes on pharmaceutical imports, so that legitimate suppliers can provide their good-quality drugs at lower prices, challenging the cheap fakes. Political support for local manufacturers that produce sub-standard drugs must also stop.

Political pressure from some members has kept the World Health Organization's International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT) from putting the spotlight on sub-standard medicines but this makes no sense: a sub-standard drug is harmful whether it was made with criminal intent or through negligence.

But the WHO's latest warning mentions counterfeits only once and does not include them in its multi-million dollar “key objectives.”

If we really do care about the health of the poorest on the planet then every government and pressure group must take immediate action to improve global standards of medicines. The diseases, the counterfeiters, the sub-standard manufacturers and the smugglers are way ahead of us.

Roger Bate is a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a U.S. think-tank. Julian Harris is a researcher at the Campaign for Fighting Diseases, London.

Asean MPs vow to ensure charter implementation

By The Nation
Published on March 1, 2009

Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan yesterday morning took time off from his tight schedule to have a working breakfast with a group of lawmakers from the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia and Thailand. The Asean members of parliament are seeking his endorsement on the plan to establish a new caucus on rights and freedom of expression.

They hope their new group will help Asean to transform into a people-oriented community.

Djoko Susila, MP of Parai Amanat Nasional (National Mandate Party), minced no words when he said that Asean had been dragged down by conservative new members Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Burma. They acted as a team, he said. That was why the Indonesian lawmakers at first were very reluctant to ratify the Asean Charter. They were not happy with the charter, but it was too late to do anything.

He said that as an Indonesian MP he did not want to make the same mistake again. This time, he said, he wanted to make sure Asean leaders would implement the charter and protect human rights. Without rights protection and freedom of expression, how can Asean become a people-oriented community, he asked.

Yim Sovann, an MP from Cambodia, concurred, saying that to make the Asean people feel that they belonged to the grouping, the charter must be fully implemented. At the moment, the Cambodian media are under government control, he said, and free and independent thinking is almost impossible. A caucus to protect freedom of expression would facilitate the realisation of the Asean charter in the near future.

Both Senator Francisco Pangilinan and Congressman Teddy Casino of the Philippines gave strong support to the idea of establishing a new caucus that would not only ensure that Asean legislators understood the content of the charter but also how to implement it.

Casino said the caucus could be used to promote public awareness of the role of freedom of expression in promoting the Asean community. Free flow of information is an important element for such an endeavour, he said.

Kraisak Choonhavan, a Democrat Party MP, pointed out that the new caucus needed the support of local people and communities. Since this new group is aimed at materialising the objectives of the charter, it needs cooperation from the people's sector, he said. He said he was sharing the experience of his own five-year caucus on Burma. Now the Inter-Parliamentary Caucus on Burma has a secretariat office in Kuala Lumpur.

From the meeting with Surin and the subsequent brainstorming session, it emerged that the Asean lawmakers, especially from member countries with more liberal political systems, will no longer take Asean norms and values for granted, they said.

"We are reading the Asean Charter and other documents, so that we can effectively monitor it," they said.

ASEAN foreign ministers approve draft on human rights body

PHETCHABURI, Feb 28 (TNA) - Foreign ministers from the 10 member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) approved their first draft on establishing an ASEAN human rights body, a senior Thai official said Saturday.

Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Thai ambassador to the United Nations and other international organisations in Geneva, who chairs the drafting committee for the ASEAN human rights body, said it demonstrates how ASEAN attaches importance to defending human rights.

He said ASEAN should have a declaration focusing on human rights and that the bloc should join international organisations involving human rights.

Approval of the first draft was made on the second day of the three-day ASEAN summit, which ends Sunday.

The final draft for an ASEAN human rights body will be submitted to the foreign ministers annual meeting for approval later this year, and should be ready by the next summit in Thailand late this year.

It is expected that the body will be established before the year end, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said earlier.

ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Critics have expressed doubt over the effectiveness of the body and question how seriously human rights problems would be tackled by ASEAN countries as the long-standing tradition of non-interference in the internal affairs of other ASEAN members continues to exist.

However, Mr. Sihasak said investigative powers for the proposed human rights body should not be ruled out. (TNA)

SOUTH-EAST ASIA: Plans for Regional Rights Body Hit Realities

IPS (Inter Press Service)

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

CHA-AM, Thailand, Feb 28 (IPS) - Plans to create a regional human rights body for the ten-nation South-east Asian bloc are threatening to expose the gulf that separates countries that seek to respect political and civil liberties and the notorious violators.

An incident on Saturday during a summit of Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) revealed the tough road that lies ahead for the high-level panel of experts tasked with drafting the terms of reference (ToR) for this body.

Burmese Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had threatened to walk out of a face-to-face meeting government leaders were to have with civil society representatives from across the region - if the latter included human rights activists from Burma and Cambodia.

A compromise struck to enable the 20-minute meeting to go ahead during the 14th ASEAN summit, being held in this resort town south of Bangkok, ensured that the Burmese military regime and the increasingly authoritarian Cambodian government got their way.

The eight-member group from South-east Asian civil society organisations (CSOs) attended the dialogue with the region’s presidents and prime ministers sans Khin Ohmar, head of the Network for Democracy and Development in Burma, and Pen Somony, programme coordinator of Cambodia Volunteers for Civil Society.

‘’It is disappointing but not unexpected,’’ Khin Ohmar told IPS. ‘’ASEAN leaders need to take into serious consideration what [the Burmese] regime is all about. The Burmese regime’s rejection shows it is not serious about ASEAN’s push for a human rights body.’’

For his part, the Cambodian premier not only objected to Pen Somony’s name but also wanted to insert a Cambodian activist of his own choosing to be part of the CSO team, according to a member of civil society who participated in the dialogue.

‘’The human rights body was discussed during our dialogue,’’ said Sinapan Samydorai, convenor of the task force on ASEAN migrant workers, who was part of the CSO delegation. ‘’We do want a body that is affective.’’

In fact, the civil society delegation was surprised by a welcome nod given by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to the clamour by activists that the people of ASEAN should be seen as partners rather than as obstacles in the regional alliance’s quest to establish its new identity as a people-centred group.

‘’The Vietnamese leader said that while the non-interference principle (of ASEAN) holds true, he welcomes the interface (with civil society),’’ said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, political scientist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, who moderated the dialogue on Saturday afternoon between CSOs and government leaders.

ASEAN, which was established in 1967 to stem the spread of communism during the height of the Cold War, includes Brunei, Burma (or Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Last December, ASEAN adopted a charter to make the regional entity a rules-based body and more ‘’people centred.’’

But the promotion and protection of human rights varies among countries. Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand are more open to such precepts, while Malaysia and Cambodia have a mixed record. Brunei, Burma, Laos, Singapore and Vietnam suffer from a human rights deficit in varying degrees.

Bridging this gap is a daunting challenge if Article 14 of the ASEAN charter is to be met. That article is the need to establish an ASEAN human rights body (AHRB) to promote and protect human rights across the region.

‘’The establishment of an ASEAN human rights body (AHRB) would be based on three main principles,’’ Sihasak Phunagketkeow, a senior Thai diplomat and chairman of the high- level panel to draft the ToR, told journalists on Saturday. ‘’We are talking of building and strengthening the human rights regime in the region.’’

The three principles are: realistically ‘’bear in mind the diversity in ASEAN,’’ establish a credible AHRB through ‘’consistency with internationally accepted human rights standards and norms,’’ and develop AHRB ‘’continually’’ through an ‘’evolutionary process’’.

During the current summit, Sihasak chaired an hour-long meeting with ASEAN foreign ministers to share the progress of the ToR, the final draft of which is to be presented at a July ministerial meeting in Thailand.

‘’We hope to establish this body at the next ASEAN summit to be held later in the year in Thailand,’’ Sihasak revealed. ‘’I don’t think this is a PR (public relations) exercise.’’

But the region’s human rights activists have reservations about the confidence of the Thai diplomat that ASEAN will have a human rights body on par with similar regional rights mechanisms in Africa, Latin America and Europe.

Doubts stem from the manner the ToR has been treated - as a secret document, not open to public scrutiny - and the insistence of the drafters on placing greater emphasis on promoting human rights awareness than protection from rights violations where abuses can be investigated.

‘’This [the ToR] is supposed to be a public document, but they are keeping it a secret,’’ says YuYun Wahyuningrum, an Indonesian national who is the East Asia programme manager at the Asia Forum for Human Rights and Development, a regional rights lobby. ‘’We want the document to be out so that we can make our input and it will be the basis of a public debate.’’

‘’Civil Society was invited to only one meeting to discuss the ToR, but that too was not based on the draft document. We were only asked to give our opinions,’’ the Indonesian human rights activist told IPS. ‘’Only some governments are interested in our views - Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.’’

Cambodia Property: Foreign Ownership May Be Close

Write About Property

The Xinhua News agency has reported that foreigners will soon be able to own property in Cambodia. Apparently the Cambodian Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction is currently drafting the legal framework to make foreign ownership a reality in Cambodia soon, said the Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith.

I will believe it when I see it. I have reported several times in the last two years that government legislation was close; to allow foreigners to buy property in Cambodia, but it never came. I feel like the boy who cried wolf, hence the tone of this article.

However, I do remember that in an interview I did with the Phnom Penh Post in the middle of last year, I said that Cambodian prices were due to level out because of the rapid level of growth, and that may force the government to reluctantly bring out legislation to allow foreigners to purchase property. So maybe the slump in activity has given them the necessary nudge.

Kanharith said that the new legislation will allow foreigners to own apartments and condos but not land.

Asean parliamentarians urge action on Burma

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation
Published on February 27, 2009

Parliamentarians from Asean countries yesterday urged leaders attending the Asean Summit from today until Sunday to seek solutions to pushing Burma toward democracy and social justice.

The juntarun country will hold a general election next year but the poll might not be inclusive enough to have participation from all stakeholders, notably ethnic minorities, said Charles Chang, a parliamentarian from Singapore.

A group of parliamentarians from Southeast Asian countries under the Asean InterParliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) gathered yesterday at a Bangkok hotel to discuss social justice in Burma.

They met Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, as Thailand holds the chairmanship of Asean, to highlight key issues of the current situation in Burma, including humanrights suppression and the 2010 juntasponsored general election.

The issue of Burma has dominated Asean meetings since the country failed to reform politics and release key opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Kasit told the parliamentarians that his government would address the issue of Burma a lot more seriously and with more engagement of civil society, according to an Asean MP who attended the meeting.

The minister was quite open as he allowed former elected MPs from Burma who are now in exile to see him yesterday, said AIPMC president Kraisak Chonhavan.

"It [more open discussion] would be like turning to a new chapter, but how to put it into political practicality in Burma is another question. This is the most open preAsean meeting I have ever seen," he said.

Asked whether the foreign minister, as the representative of Asean, had promised any action towards change in Burma, Kraisak declined to be specific, saying that the Asean charter had set out the standard for human rights in the region.

"The point is that countries which are dictatorships, or countries which are democratic in name only, can no longer dictate the Asean theme. Human rights is now an open horizon and will not stop," he added.

United States Department of State Released Report on Human Rights Violation Committed by Armed Forces against Citizens - Friday, 27.2.2009

Posted on 28 February 2009

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 601

“Businesspeople and powerful officials used courts and armed forces such as police, soldiers, and military police to evict citizens from their land and their houses without proper compensation.

“The US Department of State released the 2008 report about many cases of human rights abuses in Cambodia, caused by armed forces to evict citizens from their houses to grab their land illegally. The report described also tortures against suspects and prisoners at prisons, and the arrests of citizens and extrajudicial killings, as well as the restriction of the freedom of expression.

“The report of the US Department of State continued that most armed forces that used violence are from the military and the police, and they are not prosecuted for what they did.

“The report added that there were 40 cases of extrajudicial killings, where 16 cases were committed by police and 15 cases by military. Frequently, tortures at prisons become normal to force to obtain answers.

“The report of the US Department of State concluded that while corruption is still widespread, land disputes and evictions of citizens from their houses are still a major problems.

“The Minister of Information and government spokesperson, H.E. Khieu Kanharith, could not be reached for comment on 26 February 2009 after the annual report was released by the US Department of State, stating that armed forces were leading the violation of human rights and are involved in extrajudicial killings in Cambodia, where 40 such cases happened.

“Recently, civil society organizations in Cambodia were involved in drafting legislation relating to the establishment of an ASEAN Human Rights Committee and an independent human rights committee in Cambodia, with fund allocated by the National Assembly every year for this task.

“Civil society officials said that the report of the US Department of State about the situation of human rights violations, evictions of citizens, and corruption occurring in Cambodia is true, especially about the extrajudicial killings, and about some perpetrators who are not brought to be prosecuted according to the law.

“Such human rights violations show a lack of efforts by the government that lets a culture of impunity exist in Cambodia. If such human rights violations still continue to happen, that means that citizens cannot protect their rights if human rights violations happen, especially the right to freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate against violations of any law.”

Khmer Aphivaot Sethakech, Vol. 7, #351, 27.2.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 27 February 2009

Cambodian, Lao, Myanmar rights activists barred from ASEAN summit

MCOT - English News By Thai News Agency

PHETCHABURI, Feb 28 (TNA) -- Civil society representatives from Cambodia, the Lao PDR and Myanmar were on Saturday barred from attending talks with their government leaders, the same day that foreign ministers from the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) approved their first draft on establishing an ASEAN human rights body.

A 30-minute meeting between civil society representatives with their governmental leaders is part of the scheduled activities of the 14th ASEAN summit being held in Thai seaside resort of Cha-am.

The decision was made after representatives from Myanmar and Cambodia were ordered not to attend the meeting when Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen refused to join the meeting with civil society representatives, saying that they represented agencies which are not recognised by their governments.

Soontari Sengking, a representative of Thailand’s civil society, told journalists that there were “attempts by some government leaders in appointing their representatives to attend the talks.”

“Eventually, such talks did not take place,” Mrs. Soontari said. “We believe that it is still far from reality that representatives from civil society could confer with their government leaders.”

She said that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, host of the ASEAN summit, and Thai Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya later met with civil society representatives from Myanmar and Cambodia.

After meeting them, Mr. Abhisit admitted that several issues, especially those which are difficult and sensitive, are difficult to solve because of ASEAN’s core policy of non-interference in the domestic affairs of each member country, according to Mrs. Soontari.

Mr. Abhisit has said that ASEAN human rights body would be established before the end of 2009. (TNA)

Treat us as partners: civil-society groups

March 1, 2009

Representatives from the civil society yesterday strongly disapproved the exclusion of two activists from Burma and Cambodia for a historic meeting with Asean leaders.

The meeting was organised on the sidelines of the 14th Asean Summit here where regional leaders also met parliamentarians, youths and businesspeople from the grouping's member states.

In the wake of this incident, Asean civil-society groups called on the grouping's leaders to treat them as partners and institutionalise their interface to ensure full implementation of the people-oriented Asean Charter.

"The Asean peoples should be seen as partners - not obstacles - in the planned integration as enshrined in the Asean charter, with the people as the cornerstone," said Prof Thitinan Pongsudhirak of Chulalongkorn University.

Thitinan, who served as a coordinator of the first dialogue, said at the outset of his briefing to the Asean leaders that their people have suffered a "participation deficit". As a result, they were very enthusiastic in the week-long workshops, debating wide-ranging problems related to the three key pillars of the Asean community - security, economic and socio-cultural.

The Asean civil society, Thitinan added, expressed its gratitude to the Asean chair for the "unprecedented attention" to transform Asean into a more inclusive community. "The prime minister is very sincere and responsive," Thitinan told The Nation.

Other representatives said the interface was constructive and they had positive exchanges.

Abhisit answered all questions posed by the Asean civil society and urged them to work together with the Asean governments.

The dialogue coordinator said he was surprised to hear very positive responses from Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet, who welcomed the idea of putting the interface between the leaders and civil society into the Asean framework. He said that there must be a guideline governing such relations as stated in the Asean Charter. Vietnam will succeed Thailand as the Asean chairman next January.

During the informal exchange, Yuyun Wahyuningrum of Indonesia also managed to raise pertinent issues that affect 575 million Asean citizens.

She asked the leaders about the possibility of setting up an institutional mechanism such as an Asean Civil Society Advisory Council. The Indonesian human-rights activist said that representatives of women and youths should be part of the civil society representations at all levels.

On the issue of Burma, Yuyun quoted Aung San Suu Kyi's oft-repeated quotation: "Use your liberty to improve our liberty". She asked Asean leaders what immediate measures would be taken to stop ongoing human-rights violations, including the release of all political prisoners?

The last question focused on gender issues. She asked how the Asean leaders would like to address these issues and ensure its compliance with international human rights of substantive equality and non-discrimination.

After the informal interface, Abhisit and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya also met Burmese dissident, Khin Omar and Cambodian civil society representative, Pen Somony.

On Friday, both Cambodia and Burma threatened to boycott the dialogue if these persons attended. As a compromise, it was decided that Abhisit, as the Asean chair, would meet them separately.

Omar thanked the two leaders for their efforts to broaden the dialogue with the civil society while expressing concerns that her country was not fully committed to the Asean Charter.

Pen Somony, the Programme Coordinator of Cambodia Volunteers for Civil Society, told the Thai leaders to widen the space for the young peoples of Asean.

Meanwhile, Soe Aung, spokesman for the Forum for Democracy in Burma, said what had happened had raised doubts about the sincerity of certain Asean leaders in allowing civil society's participation in the process of creating a people-centred Asean.

Debbie Stothard, coordinator of the Alternative Asean Network on Burma, said the Burmese and Cambodian leaders "sabotaged" the Asean leaders' meeting with civil-society representatives.

Burma, Cambodia leaders denounced over ban on activists

By Kittipong Thavevong
The Nation
Cha-am, Phetchaburi

Representatives from the civil society on Saturday expressed resentment at the exclusion of two colleagues from Burma and Cambodia for an unprecedented meeting with Asean government leaders.

The meeting was organised at the side of the 14th Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations taking place in Cha-am and Prachuap Khiri Khan's Hua Hin district.

Asean leaders also met with parliamentarians, youths and businesspeople from the grouping's member states.

The activists denounced the leaders of Burma and Cambodia for barring those two civil-society representatives from the meeting.

However, they praised Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya for coming out of the meeting venue to talk to the excluded representatives.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Burma's Prime Minister General Thein Sein earlier threatened to boycott the meeting if the persons in question were allowed to attend the meeting.

"They are not respecting the Asean Charter, which aims to be people-centred," said Soe Aung, spokesman for the Forum for Democracy in Burma.

He said what happened has raised doubts about the sincerity of certain Asean leaders in allowing civil society's participation in the process of creating a people-centred Asean.

Representatives from Laos and Brunei opted not to take part in the meeting. Only civil-society representatives from six other Asean countries attended, according to Suntaree Sengking, one of the participants from Thailand.

Soe Aung warned that without real participation of peoples, the Asean Charter would not become effective. "Asean will not go further," he said.

Debbie Stothard, coordinator of the Alternative Asean Network on Burma, said the Burmese and Cambodian leaders "sabotaged" the Asean leaders' meeting with civil-society representatives.

"They are abusing not only their own peoples, but also Asean and the host Thailand," she said.

Stothard, however, praised Thailand's prime minister and foreign minister for their "show of solidarity" with the spurned civil-society representatives.

Soe Aung also was impressed by the hosts' action. "They [Abhisit and Kasit] told us that our voice will be heard and they will convey our message to other Asean leaders," said Soe Aung.

Soe Aung and Stothard were talking to reporters at the press centre.

Stothard's unofficial press conference was interrupted by a sudden loud music. The interruption forced her and other civil-society representatives, who joined later, to move outdoors for further interviews with the media.

Abhisit later told reporters at a subsequent press conference in the summit venue that the format of the civil society representatives' meeting with the Asean leaders was organised as agreed earlier with the Foreign Ministry.

He said that the representatives raised concern over human rights issues, particularly involving Burma, during the meeting and that the Asean leaders shared views with them.

The PM said the Asean leaders listened to views from the civil society and would allow further participation. He said the Asean Secretariat would help create necessary process for that.

US: drug problems in Cambodia, Philippines

Associated Press

The United States on Friday praised Beijing for its efforts to fight drug smugglers but said China remains a major transit point for international drug markets.

The State Department, in its annual survey of global counter-narcotics efforts, also described substantial drug problems facing Asia, including in Cambodia, the Philippines and Myanmar; progress was seen in Laos and Vietnam.

While Beijing recognizes drugs as a major threat to its security and economy, "corruption in far-flung drug-producing and drug transit regions of China limits what dedicated enforcement officials can accomplish," the report said.

North Korean drug activity, the report said, "appears to be down sharply. There have been no instances of drug trafficking suggestive of state-directed trafficking for six years."

But, the State Department said, not enough evidence exists to determine if state-sponsored trafficking has stopped. The State Department has previously raised suspicions that Pyongyang derived money from drug production and trafficking.

In the report, the United States also said that drug runners have increasingly looked to move their products through Cambodia because of Thai and Chinese crackdowns.

The report noted "a significant and growing illegal drug problem" in Cambodia. It praised the country for destroying seized drugs and stiffening penalties for drug use and trafficking but said corruption hampers government efforts.

The State Department called the scope of the drug problem in the Philippines "immense," despite law enforcement efforts to disrupt major drug organizations. Still, the report said, the government had some success enforcing counter-narcotics laws.

Laos has made "tremendous progress" in reducing opium cultivation, but, the report said, the country's momentum is "stalling, and gains remain precarious."

Vietnam was said to have continued making progress in fighting drugs, improving its pursuit of drug runners and its cooperation among state agencies and with the United Nations.

The report said that, in 2007, rising opium values pushed poppy cultivation into new regions of military-run Myanmar. The State Department did not receive 2008 U.N. statistics on Myanmar in time for the annual report.


Associated Press writer William C. Mann contributed to this story.