Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Thaksin Shinawatra brings Thai politics to Cambodia

Submitted by Sukhpreet Manchanda
Tue, 11/10/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Bangkok/Phnom Penh - Thailand's fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has brought his country's deeply divided politics across the border to neighbouring Cambodia, where he has taken up two advisory roles.

Thaksin arrived in Phnom Penh on Tuesday after being appointed last week as a special advisor to the government and personal advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The Thai government reacted to the appointment by recalling its ambassador to Phnom Penh on Thursday and launching a review of all bilateral agreements. Cambodia reciprocated by recalling its ambassador Friday.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva called Thaksin's advisory role direct interference in Thailand's domestic affairs and an affront to its judiciary.

Thaksin, 60, is Abhisit's political archrival. The Thaksin-backed Red-Shirt movement and Puea Thai opposition party have been pressing for a house dissolution since Abhisit came to power in December 2008.

Thaksin faces a two-year jail term in Thailand after being found guilty in absentia last year of abuse of power by the Supreme Court for Political Office Holders. He has been living in self-exile, mostly in Dubai, since fleeing Thailand in August 2008.

Thaksin, and now Hun Sen, claim the sentence was politically motivated. Cambodia has made clear it would refuse to extradite Thaksin to Thailand, despite a bilateral extradition treaty.

For its part, the Cambodian government continues to insist that the appointments are a purely internal matter.

"He is here for economic reasons, not for any activities related to politics," Cambodia's government spokesman Phay Siphan told reporters Tuesday. "You must understand that Cambodia does not allow [foreign nationals] to do politics within Cambodia at all."

But one does not have to look far to find analysts who see political motivations at work. Cheang Vannarith is the executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, a political research organization in Phnom Penh.

He said a Thai election, anticipated next year, is a factor in Hun Sen's calculations.

"Hun Sen foresees the future of Thai politics in that the Thaksin group could win the next election in Thailand," said Cheang Vannarith. "By that time bilateral relations can be rebuilt and the friendship restored."

He said the root cause of the problems between the two kingdoms - and therefore the solution - is to be found in Bangkok.

"Thai politics is divided which is why there's a lot of conflict," Cheah Vannarith said. "Thailand has exported that conflict to Cambodia, such as with the border issue at Preah Vihear."

Preah Vihear, an 11th-century Hindu temple on the Thai-Cambodian border, has been a source of bilateral tensions for five decades. Although awarded to Cambodia in a ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 1962, Thailand objected to it becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2008.

The Democrat Party, led by Abhisit, seized on the Preah Vihear issue last year when it was in opposition to blame the then pro-Thaksin coalition government of allowing Cambodia to lay claim to still disputed land adjacent to the temple.

Hun Sen believes the Preah Vihear spat is unlikely to be resolved as long as the Democrats are in power.

And the Cambodian prime minister has made the most of the Thaksin card.

He announced his intention to provide Thaksin with refuge in Cambodia two days before Thailand hosted a summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) from October 23-25. Upon arrival at the summit Hun Sen drew a comparison between Thaksin and Myanmar's pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace prize laureate who is revered and admired by many.

Thaksin, a former billionaire telecommunications tycoon, was Thai premier between 2001 and 2006, before being toppled in a coup which had widespread support from Bangkok's middle class and the political elite. He has become the unlikely hero of the country's poor, whom he wooed successfully with populist policies and a sense of empowerment.

He is fighting for a political comeback at a time when Thai courts are moving in on his family's 2 billion dollars in frozen bank deposits.

"Thaksin wants his money back and why shouldn't he?" said Chaturon Chaisaeng, a close Thaksin ally.

But he may have taken a political gamble in taking Thai politics to Cambodia, both a recent and historical rival for Thai kingdoms through the ages.

"It could boomerang on him," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University. "We Thais will fight among ourselves but once you have an outside force meddling, we tend to close ranks and turn against it." (dpa)

Thaksin visit: Catch me if you can


Tue, Nov 10, 2009
The Nation/Asia News Network

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The move to seek the extradition of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was proceeding at snail's pace through the Thai bureaucracy yesterday even as he was about to land in Phnom Penh for his first lecture on economic matters on Thursday.

Although Cambodia has vowed to throw out any extradition request, Bangkok seems determined to test that resolve. But Thailand's first hurdle could be its own bureaucratic clumsiness.

Sirisak Tiyaphan, chief prosecutor for foreign affairs at the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG), said documentation for the extradition had already been prepared and that all that was needed to proceed was an official request from the Foreign Ministry.

"As soon as we know Thaksin's exact address in Cambodia, we will submit a document requesting extradition to Phnom Penh, in accordance with the extradition treaty between the two countries," he said.

However, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Vimon Kidchob said the ministry was awaiting the arrest warrant and related documents from the OAG.

"Once we obtain the document, we'll submit it through our embassy in Phnom Penh to seek extradition," she said.

Thailand has sent the same request to Fiji, Nicaragua and the United Arab Emirates but failed to establish an extradition trail in any of those countries so far.

Thailand and Cambodia signed an extradition treaty in 1998, but Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has said he will not extradite Thaksin to Thailand, because the treaty prohibits sending anyone to face punishment for a political offence.

Thaksin was appointed Hun Sen's economic adviser and is scheduled to give a lecture in Phnom Penh on Thursday.

Thaksin's appointment has worsened tensions between Thailand and Cambodia. The neighbours have already been at loggerheads over the Preah Vihear Temple since last year.

The two countries have downgraded their diplomatic relations, and Thailand has terminated a maritime memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed during Thaksin's administration in 2001.

The Cabinet today will consider the decision to terminate the MoU.

The diplomatic row may affect financing for Highway 68 from Surin to Siem Reap, as a Bt1.4-billion tranche is due for disbursement in the middle of next year, said Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency director Akarasiri Buranasiri.

"Still, it depends on the Thai government's policy. In the worst case, all funding will be stopped."

Cambodia could lose Bt30 billion to Bt40 billion in tourism revenue because of the conflict, which has encouraged European tourists to turn to northeastern Thailand instead, said Apichart Sankary, honorary adviser to the Association of Thai Travel Agents.

Thai Travel Agents Association president Charoen Wangananont said 20 per cent of Thai travellers who had cancelled packages to Cambodia had switched to Laos and 10 per cent to Burma. He said Cambodia stood to lose more tourism revenue than Thailand, because more than 600,000 Thais visited the country annually, against 60,000 Cambodian visitors to Thailand.Parliament yesterday failed to discuss documents for a joint boundary-demarcation commission. The government, opposition and Senate whips agreed to propose postponement of the discussion, because talks now could be sensitive.

Thai PM: Gov't to officially ask Cambodia to extradite Thaksin

November 10, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thailand is in the process to send involved documents to Cambodia to request the country to extradite ousted former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to Thailand, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Tuesday.

Thaksin's arrival in Cambodia was not surprising since Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced earlier Thaksin was appointed as an advisor to the Cambodian government, Thai television Channel 9 reported.

Thaksin arrived in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh Tuesday morning to take up his new job as the advisor of Hun Sen and the Royal Government.

Currently, involved authorities are working on the documents to send to Cambodia, the Thai prime minister said.

The Thai government's additional measures after this will depend on development from Cambodia, Abhisit said.

As Thailand is waiting for the further development from Cambodia, it is unsure how long Thaksin will stay in Cambodia, Abhisit said.

Thailand and Cambodia have downgraded diplomatic relations due to conflict over the appointment of Thaksin as an economic advisor to Cambodia's government on Nov. 4.

A day after the appointment of Thaksin, the Cambodian government announced recall of its ambassador to Thailand in a move to respond to the Thai government's recall of its ambassador to Cambodia.

Source: Xinhua

Movie star Jackie Chan to give lecture in Cambodia


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) -- Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan arrived here on Tuesday to pay a visit and give a lecture in a Cambodian university.

Chan will stay here for three days. While he is in Cambodia, Chan will give a lecture to students at the University of Cambodia on the experiences and humanity work that he has achieved and engaged with.

He will be awarded with an honorable doctoral degree in humanity, Kao Kim Hourn, secretary of state for the Foreign Ministry and president of the University of Cambodia, said earlier.

Meanwhile, Chan will also receive an education award from the University of Cambodia for his humanity's work and activities, Kao added.

According to the plan, Chan will also pay a courtesy call on Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni and meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Jackie Chan made his first visit to Cambodia in 2004 under the sponsors of the United Nations Children's Fund and the United Nations AIDS Program.

Chan is a keen philanthropist and UNICEF/UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador who has worked tirelessly to champion charitable works and causes.

It is the part of the events of the "Bridges - Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace" program of the International Peace Foundation scheduled from Nov. 4, 2009 to April 27, 2010. Ten Nobel Prize winners, film stars, movie producers and other world figures will visit here and give speeches.

It is the first event of its kind to be held in Cambodia. Speakers will get the chance to meet students and engage in other activities during their stays in Cambodia.

Editor: Chris

Thailand cannot cancel MoUs - Cambodia

By The Nation
Deutsche Presse Agentur

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Cambodia insists on Tuesday Thailand could not revoke a Thai-Cambodian memorandum of understanding on joint oil and gas exploration because the move would be against international laws.

Var Kimhong, head of Cambodia's border commission, said, "I could not find any term in these articles that allows the Thai side to terminate on its own without the consent of the (Cambodian) side," he said.

"No single article allows one side to terminate."

Var Kimhong was speaking shortly after the Thai cabinet on Tuesday agreed its foreign ministry's proposal to cancel the MoUs on joint oil and gas exploration.

The move is part of the series of Thai protests after Cambodia appointed Thaksin as economic adviser to its premier and government last week. Bangkok is upset that Cambodia declared it would not extradite Thaksin to Thailand to serve the two-year jail term if requested.

Following the appointment, Thailand recalled its ambassador, downgraded the relations and reviewed mutual cooperations.

Thaksin arrived in Phnom Penh on Tuesday and he was scheduled to give a lecture on economy issues on Thursday.

Cambodians stockpiling goods from Thai side amid rumors of border closure


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) -- Cambodians at the Thai-Cambodian border Tuesday have been stockpiling goods from the Thai side due to continued rumors of the border closure because of the diplomatic standoff of the two countries.

Though the border trade has still continued, it is discovered Cambodians bought a number of Thai goods to stockpile in Cambodia, Thai television Channel 9 reported.

Sales of instant noodles have already risen sharply for a few days, said Sombat Jeung-tra-kul, a Thai nationality, who is the president of the Thai-Cambodian traders club in Chan-ta-bu-ri province bordering Cambodia.

However, the trade situation at the Thai-Cambodian border in Si-sa-ged province of Thailand is quiet despite of the rumors.

The Thai army at this border has suggested the peoples of the two countries not be panic over the rumors.

Thailand and Cambodia have downgraded their diplomatic relations due to conflict over an appointment of ousted former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic advisor to Cambodia's government on Nov. 4.

A day after the appointment of Thaksin, the Cambodian government announced the recall of its ambassador to Thailand in a move to respond to the Thai government's recall of its ambassador to Cambodia.

Thaksin was ousted by the military coup in September 2006, in accusation of corruption, and is living in exile since then.

He returned to Thailand in February 2008 to face corruption charges, but he later fled into exile again and was convicted in absentia.

Editor: Deng Shasha

Cambodia 'stands to lose B40bn' income

Published: 10/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Cambodia could lose 30 to 40 billion baht in tourism income as the latest conflict with Thailand is driving Thai and foreign tourists away, Apichart Sangka-aree, an adviser to the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), said on Tuesday.

“On the tourism front, Cambodia will face stronger negative impact from the dispute than Thailand.

''European tourists are now refraining from visiting Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and are instead visiting the Northeast of Thailand, which has a similar culture and tourist attractions,'' Mr Apichart said.

Charoen Wang-ananont, chairman of the Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA), took the same tone, saying 95 per cent of Thai tourists who had booked tour packages to Cambodia in advance have now cancelled or delayed their trip.

“We found that 20 per cent of them changed their destination to Laos and another 10 per cent to Burma,” Mr Charoen said. The tourist attractions that coincidently gained benefits from the conflict included Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Savannakhet and Champasak.

More than 600, 000 Thais visited Cambodia last year and they spent about 7,000 baht each, while only 60,000 Cambodian traveled to Thailand, according to the TTAA chairman.

Thai PM: Gov't to officially ask Cambodia to extradite Thaksin


BANGKOK, Nov 10, 2009 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Thailand is in the process to send involved documents to Cambodia to request the country to extradite ousted former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to Thailand, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Tuesday.

Thaksin's arrival in Cambodia was not surprising since Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced earlier Thaksin was appointed as an advisor to the Cambodian government, Thai television Channel 9 reported.

Thaksin arrived in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh Tuesday morning to take up his new job as the advisor of Hun Sen and the Royal Government.

Currently, involved authorities are working on the documents to send to Cambodia, the Thai prime minister said.

The Thai government's additional measures after this will depend on development from Cambodia, Abhisit said.

As Thailand is waiting for the further development from Cambodia, it is unsure how long Thaksin will stay in Cambodia, Abhisit said.

Thailand and Cambodia have downgraded diplomatic relations due to conflict over the appointment of Thaksin as an economic advisor to Cambodia's government on Nov. 4.

A day after the appointment of Thaksin, the Cambodian government announced recall of its ambassador to Thailand in a move to respond to the Thai government's recall of its ambassador to Cambodia.


New crocodile hopes in Cambodia

By Guy De Launey
BBC News, Phnom Penh

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The discovery in Cambodia of rare Siamese crocodiles has excited conservationists

Conservationists say there is fresh hope for one of the world's rarest reptiles.

DNA tests have found 35 pure-bred Siamese crocodiles at a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia.

There are fewer then 250 of the species left in the wild, but the crocodiles at the sanctuary could now form the basis of a captive-breeding programme.

Siamese crocodiles may be smaller than some other species, but they're easily capable of breaking human limbs.

So for the conservationists at the Phnom Tamao wildlife rescue centre, taking DNA samples was a hazardous task.

In February this year, they wrangled and wrestled 69 of the beasts so they could gather genetic information.

And now it turns out all the hard work was worth it.

Thirty-five crocodiles have been confirmed as pure-bred Siamese - including six adults which may be suitable for starting off a captive breeding programme.

And more than two dozen younger crocs may be released into the wild when they are old enough.

The discovery continues a remarkable comeback for the species.

Siamese crocodiles were declared extinct in the 1990s - before a small population was discovered in Cambodia's Cardamom Mountains.

But the conservation organisation Fauna and Flora International has warned that any celebrations would be premature.

Siamese crocodiles mature slowly.

So it will take 15 years before the breeding programme comes to fruition.

And in the meantime, everything from poaching to hydroelectric projects pose a threat to crocodiles and their habitats.

Hun Sen to Aphisit (Video in KHmer Language)

(Part 1)

(Part 2)

(Part 3)

Cambodia announces Thaksin visit

By Kounila Keo (AFP)

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH — Fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra will visit Phnom Penh this week in his new role as economics adviser, the Cambodian PM said Sunday, further stoking a row with Thailand.

"Thaksin will be at the Ministry of Economy and Finance on November 12 to do a briefing with more than 300 Cambodian economics experts," Hun Sen told a news conference at Phnom Penh International Airport.

The visit is set to increase tensions with neighbouring Thailand, which have escalated since Wednesday when Cambodia announced the appointment of Thaksin -- ousted as Thai prime minister in a 2006 coup -- as economics adviser.

Both countries Thursday recalled their respective ambassadors and Thailand warned Friday that it could seal the border.

"If you want to close, close it. The loss will be mutual," said Hun Sen Sunday, pointing out that Thailand had more to lose in terms of border trade profit.

"If Thais want to close the border, Cambodia will follow. If Thais close the border, all trade between Cambodia and Thailand will be cut off," Hun Sen told reporters.

Thaksin is living abroad to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption, but Cambodia said last week the charges against him were "politically motivated" and vowed not to extradite him if he travelled to the country.

"Please let Thaksin share my burden of boosting the economy of Cambodia," Hun Sen appealed to the Thai people Sunday.

Earlier, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said billionaire Thaksin faced a "conflict of interest", having previously been chief of negotiations in Thailand and now working "for another side".

Twice-elected Thaksin remains a deeply divisive figure in Thailand, where his supporters have stirred up a series of protests in recent months against the government.

His own allies were forced from government in December 2008 after anti-Thaksin demonstrators held a crippling blockade of Bangkok's airports.

Abhisit used his weekly television programme to defend Thailand's handling of the spat with Cambodia, saying it had acted "calmly and carefully".

The two countries have fought a series of deadly clashes on their border since July 2008 in a dispute over land around an ancient Cambodian temple that was granted UN World Heritage Status.

"There is no reason to make tensions at the border which might lead to clashes," Abhisit added.

Hun Sen also used his press conference on Sunday to downplay tensions at the border, announce the withdrawal of elite paratroopers from disputed territory near Preah Vihear temple because the situation there was "quiet".

Commander Chab Pheakdey, head of the unit, refused to divulge the number of soldiers that would be withdrawn from the area.

The head of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, General Surin Pitsuwan, urged Thailand and Cambodia on Saturday to show "maximum restraint" in their ongoing spat.

He said the 10-country bloc should not be seen to be divided by the dispute ahead of a historic meeting with US President Barack Obama and regional leaders later this month. But Abhisit denied the issue would affect the summit.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama also told Hun Sen at a bilateral meeting in Tokyo Saturday that he was "concerned" about the row, a Japanese official said.

Thaksin Arrival Combodia

Toppled Thai leader arrives in Cambodia

Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra exits a plane upon arriving at a military air base in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009. Cambodia announced that Thailand's fugitive ex-Prime Minister Thaksin arrived Tuesday in Phnom Penh following his appointment as economic adviser to the government, fueling tensions between the neighboring countries. (AP Photo/Lim Cheavutha)


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Thailand's fugitive ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra arrived Tuesday in Cambodia following his appointment as economic adviser to the government, fueling tensions between the neighboring countries.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he would seek Thaksin's extradition and announced that his Cabinet had approved ending talks with Phnom Penh on disputed maritime borders.

The toppled leader was to deliver a lecture Thursday to more than 300 economists while in Phnom Penh.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Thaksin flew into the Cambodian capital's military airport aboard a private plane. State televison showed that Thaksin arrived with a party of less than 10 people and was driven into Phnom Penh under very tight security provided by bodyguards of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Thaksin's surprising appointment by Hun Sen has soured already poor relations between the two neighbors, which have had small but sometimes deadly skirmishes over their land border in the past year.

Thailand responded to the appointment by withdrawing its ambassador from Phnom Penh, and Cambodia retaliated in kind.

Abhisit said that if Cambodia did not extradite Thaksin, Thailand "will be ready with the proper response." He did not elaborate.

He said that since Thaksin was now serving as an economic adviser to Cambodia, the Cabinet had approved terminating a memorandum of understanding on the disputed territory, which contains large petroleum deposits. The cancellation must still be approved by Parliament.

Deputy Minister of the Council of Ministers Phay Siphan said Hun Sen would host a lunch Wednesday for Thaksin "because the two leaders are close friends." He said Thaksin would stay in Cambodia at least two to three days.

"He is coming to give a lecture only so I believe that he will not do anything related to political activity here," Phay Siphan told reporters.

Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 military coup. He is living in exile, mostly in Dubai, to avoid a two-year prison sentence for corruption.

Despite his self-imposed exile he remains at the center of a political fight between his supporters and those of the current government. He ignited fresh controversy Monday by speaking candidly about the nation's constitutional monarchy.

Thaksin gave a rare extensive interview that was published by the Times of London on its Web site in which he spoke glowingly of the prospects for Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn once he succeeds his father, 81-year old King Bhumibol Adulyadej. But he criticized the king's close advisers for interfering with politics.

Open discussion of the succession issue is a delicate issue, in part because of strict laws that prohibit insulting the king and his family and make such criticism punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Thaksin went into exile last year ahead of a court judgment that found him guilty of violating a conflict of interest law and sentenced him to two years in jail. He served as prime minister from 2001 to 2006, when he was ousted by a military coup after being accused of corruption and showing disrespect to the monarchy.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, who was an anti-Thaksin activist before joining the government, said to reporters that Thaksin's interview remarks were offensive to the monarchy, and questioned his motive for making them.

Other officials in the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva also criticized Thaksin.

Thaksin's supporters and opponents have repeatedly taken to the streets since his ouster to spar over who has the right to rule the country, sometimes sparking violence.

On a Web page he maintains, Thaksin later said that The Times had distorted his comments, especially in its headline reading, "Ousted Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra calls for 'shining' new age after King's death."

In the Times interview, which included a transcript posted online, the former prime minister was laudatory about Vajiralongkorn, whom he described as "the newer generation, modern."

"He has a very strong determination to do what he really wants to achieve," said Thaksin.

He also offered repeated, almost fulsome praise of Bhumibol, but said the circle of people around him, particularly his main adviser, former Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda, had illegitimately interfered in politics.

Many people believe Prem engineered the coup against Thaksin, a charge Prem has denied.

The king has been in hospital for almost two months with a lung ailment.

Ex-Thai PM arrives in Cambodia

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Mr Thaksin remains a highly divisive figure in Thailand

Fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has flown to the Cambodian capital to take up a job as economic adviser to the government.

He was sentenced in absentia to two years in jail in neighbouring Thailand in a conflict of interest case.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen offered Mr Thaksin the advisory post on the eve of a regional summit hosted by Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The Thai government has expressed anger and embarrassment about the deal.

Ties between Cambodia and Thailand have been tense in recent months as disputes around a cross-border temple complex have flared.

Campaign base fear

Mr Thaksin landed in a small private aeroplane and was then escorted into the Cambodian capital by a convoy of cars under tight security.

"Thaksin is now in Cambodia. He flew in on a special flight and just landed at the military airport," said Khieu Kanharith, Cambodian information minister and the top government spokesman.

"We are looking forward to learning from Thaksin's great economic experience and we are convinced that his experience will contribute to our country's economic development," he said.

Mr Thaksin, a former telecoms billionaire, is in self-imposed exile and spends much of his time in Dubai.

He is scheduled to give a lecture on Thursday to 300 economists at the ministry of finance.

Thailand's government is outraged at the Cambodian move, and at Cambodia's apparent rejection of Thailand's judicial imperative to send Mr Thaksin to jail.

The Thai government and its supporters also fear that Mr Thaksin could use his new home just across the border as a campaign base.

Mr Abhisit's government was appointed after defections in parliament followed a period of military rule since the coup in 2006 which deposed Mr Thaksin.

It recalled its ambassador from Cambodia over its appointment of Mr Thaksin after Cambodia would refuse to extradite the tycoon because it considered him a victim of political persecution.

A government spokesman told the BBC that Cambodia valued Mr Thaksin's leadership qualities and business experience and that he would be an asset to the country.

Thailand's Thaksin in Cambodia for tense visit

Fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, pictured here in February 2008, landed in the Cambodian capital Tuesday to carry out his new role as economics adviser to the government, an AFP photographer said. (AFP/File/Pornchai Kittiwongsakul)

by Tang Chhin Sothy Tang Chhin Sothy – Mon Nov 9

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra landed in Cambodia Tuesday to start a job as government economic adviser, escalating an already huge diplomatic row between the two countries.

Thaksin, who was ousted in a coup in 2006, exited a small private airplane at Phnom Penh International Airport and was then escorted into the capital by a convoy of cars under tight security, said an AFP photographer.

Cambodia announced Thaksin's appointment last week, sparking a dispute that has led Thailand and Cambodia to recall their respective ambassadors and has deepened tensions after a series of deadly border clashes in the past year.

Thailand has also said it could seal the frontier if Thaksin is not extradited, but Cambodian ministry of foreign affairs spokesman Kuoy Kong said his country was "not concerned about these issues".

"We will not extradite him (Thaksin). We already clarified this case because he is a political victim," Kuoy Kong told AFP Tuesday.

Billionaire telecoms mogul Thaksin is living in foreign locations including Dubai to avoid a two-year jail term for abuse of power handed down by a Thai court in absentia in September 2008.

He justified his trip to Cambodia -- whose prime minister Hun Sen is a close friend and political ally -- in an open letter published on his website late Monday.

"As I travel to Cambodia to discuss poverty and the world economic situation, I will try to preserve Thai interests with our friends in Phnom Penh, despite the Thai government still hounding me wherever I go," he wrote.

"I will not go to Cambodia to help Cambodia fight with Thailand but to exchange views and experiences on poverty-solving as well as new regional economics."

Thaksin, the former owner of Manchester City football club, is due to give a a speech to hundreds of Cambodian economics experts in the capital on Thursday. He has not said how long he will be in Phnom Penh.

The Thai government said it had not been officially informed of Thaksin's arrival in Cambodia. "We want to verify the report first," Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to Thailand's foreign affairs minister, told AFP.

Thaksin won two elections and remains a massively influential figure in Thai politics, stirring up mass protests by so-called "Red Shirt" supporters against the current government.

His presence on Thailand's doorstep is the closest he has come since he last fled the country in August 2008, a move that is likely to alarm the shaky 11-month-old coalition government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Thaksin's visit also threatens to take the shine off a summit of Southeast Asian leaders with US President Barack Obama that Abhisit is due to chair on Sunday in Singapore.

Thailand remains bitterly divided between Thaksin's main support base among the poor, especially in rural areas, and his foes in the Bangkok-based elite power circles of the palace, military and bureaucracy.

Textbook sheds light on Khmer Rouge era

By Guy De Launey
BBC News, Phnom Penh

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

A former Khmer Rouge prison guard helped distribute the new textbook

Students can rarely have seemed so enthusiastic about receiving a textbook.

Even though it was not a school day, dozens of them made their way in to Sisowath High School in the centre of Phnom Penh for a presentation ceremony.

School and government officials were formally handing out the new Khmer Rouge history book, a scene that will be repeated across the country in the closing months of this year.

Three decades have passed since the fall of the Khmer Rouge government. Yet only now are Cambodian schoolchildren finally starting to learn about what happened during the Pol Pot era.

As many as two million people died in the late 1970s from forced labour, malnutrition and the summary execution of so-called "enemies of the revolution".

But the subject was conspicuous by its absence from the high school curriculum until the new textbook received official approval.

At Sisowath High, the students enthusiastically fired questions at the book's author and an official from the ministry of education. They asked "Who were the Khmer Rouge?" and "Why did they kill their own people?"

Fragile society

These are the kind of things which one might have thought they would already know. But official information has been thin on the ground. Until now the official school text contained a mere five lines on the Pol Pot era.

Khamboly Dy has expanded that paragraph to an entire textbook for the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, an organisation which gathers evidence about Khmer Rouge atrocities.

Like most Cambodians, he was born after the fall of the Khmer Rouge - but he insists young people must not ignore the subject.

"After the Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodia was so damaged and fragile - like broken glass," he says.

"The young generation has the responsibility to repair this broken glass. They need to understand what happened in their country before they can move forward to build up democracy, peace and reconciliation."

Teaching the Khmer Rouge era has not been straightforward in Cambodia.

The subject disappeared from the curriculum in the early 1990s when Pol Pot and his followers were among the signatories to a peace agreement.

A series of defections and the presence of former Khmer Rouge members in the current government mean it is still a sensitive issue to tackle.

So the new textbook is careful to concentrate on the grim facts of the Pol Pot era, rather than any political analysis. And that has ensured its official approval.

There are chapters titled "forced labour", "purges and massacres" and "interrogation and torture" - but no explicit photos.

Changing attitudes

Seventeen-year-old Rina was among the first students at Sisowath High to receive the textbook - and looked forward to closing the gaps in her knowledge.

Like Rina, most Cambodians were born after the Khmer Rouge fell

"I feel regret and guilty about this; they killed a lot of people," she explained.

"The new textbook will give me the experience of what happened in Cambodia - and Cambodians will never let this happen again."

The absence of the Khmer Rouge era from the school curriculum meant young Cambodians had been relying on older family members for information.

Researchers discovered that some found the horrific stories barely believable, and cast doubt on whether the atrocities actually happened.

Those attitudes may now change. Sisowath High School history teacher Im Sao Sokha will be among those using the new textbook to guide students through Cambodia's bloody past.

Teacher Im Sao Sokha lived through the Khmer Rouge era

"I lived through this period myself," he says.

"No other country killed its own people like this - it was a disastrous episode in Cambodian history. If they understand what happened during the Khmer Rouge, students will change their attitude. They won't get involved with conflict, violence or fighting with each other."

It is a lot of weight to put on a single textbook. But at the very least it should help to ensure that young Cambodians have the full details of the events of the Pol Pot era. What happens next is up to them.

THAI-CAMBODIA RELATIONS : Cambodia's new economic adviser arrives in Phnom Penh

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Convicted ex-Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra landed in Phnom Penh on Tuesday to start his first assignment as an economic adviser to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government.

He arrived at a military airport at in Phnom Penh at about 9am by his private jet. He was then escorted into the Cambodian capital by a convoy of cars under tight security.

He is a Hun Sen's guest lecturer to talk about economy issue in front of about 300 officials and economists at Finance Ministry on Thursday.

Hun Sen has appointed Thaksin as his economic adviser recently. The appointment endorsed by Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni has drawn dissastisfaction from Thailand as Thaksin is a convicted and ran away from a two-year jail term for abuse of power and corruption.

To protest Cambodia over the appointment, Thailand recalled its ambassador to Phnom Penh and cancelled memorandum of understanding on Thai-Cambodia overlapping zones signed during Thaksin government.

Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva has insisted that Cambodia would not proceed with this [Thaksin's extradition] and criticised both Thai politics, and most importantly the Thai justice system questioning issues related to the court, fairness.

"I think Thailand and Thai people cannot accept this. All of this is not about political conflicts within our country but this is what all of us must assert on the legitimacy and dignity of our core institution, which is the justice system," Abhisit said.

Abhisit said his government had treated Thai-Cambodian conflicts carefully. Although it decided to lower bilateral relationship by recalling the ambassador, it was keeping in mind not to hurt people-to-people relations and border trade, and avoid tension or violence along the border. He said the conflict would not hurt regional cooperation such as Asean and Mekong countries.

Thailand's Thaksin arrives in Cambodia on controversial visit

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Tuesday, 10 November 2009 15:03 James O’Toole and Cheang Sokha

Fugitive ex-premier's trip likely to further deteriorate relations between Cambodia and Thailand.

THAILAND's deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra arrived in Phnom Penh Tuesday at the invitation of Cambodia's government in a move that is likely to escalate a diplomatic row that has already seen the two countries recall their ambassadors and plunged relations to their lowest point in six years.

Thaksin, who last week was appointed both an economic adviser to the government and a personal adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen – further inflaming Thai anger – is expected to deliver a lecture to hundreds of Cambodian economics experts on Thursday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told the Post Tuesday he was unsure how long Thaksin would remain in Cambodia.

The ex-premier, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, arrived at the military air base adjacent to Phnom Penh International Airport in a small jet, and was briefly greeted by several Cambodian officials on the tarmac before being whisked away in a motorcade.

Thaksin's visit to Cambodia is the closest he has come to his country since living in self-exile to avoid a prison term for abuse of power charges handed down in absentia in 2008.

In a posting late Monday on his Web site, Thaksin claimed his trip to Cambodia was not an act of provocation.

“As I travel to Cambodia to discuss poverty and the world economic situation, I will try to preserve Thai interests with our friends in Phnom Penh, despite the Thai government still hounding me wherever I go,” he wrote.

“I will not go to Cambodia to help Cambodia fight with Thailand, but to exchange views and experiences on poverty-solving as well as new regional economics.”

Bangkok has vowed to seek the fugitive billionaire’s extradition, with Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi saying Monday that his government was already in the process of preparing the extradition documentation.

Cambodia, however, has maintained that Thaksin will not be extradited because he was prosecuted for “political reasons,” with Prime Minister Hun Sen comparing the ex-Thai leader to Myanmar opposition figure Aung San Suu Kyi during the 15th ASEAN summit in the Thai resort town of Hua Hin last month.

Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong confirmed Tuesday that the government will “absolutely not” extradite Thaksin.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political analyst at Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University, said Sunday that in the event of Thaksin’s arrival in Cambodia, the government of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva “will be forced to step up the escalation spiral”.

He added, however, that both sides must own up to their responsibility for the breakdown in relations.

“Hun Sen has overstepped the line here – diplomatically, legally, politically,” he said.

“At the same time, the Abhisit government has to own up to its past deeds. Appointing [Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya] has been a liability, and now you can see the consequences. Allowing Sam Rainsy to speak in Thailand has added fuel to the fire. Allowing the right wing radical groups from the PAD [People's Alliance for Democracy] to protest at the [Preah Vihear temple] site… has added fuel to the fire.”

Student movement

Photo by: AFP

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Tuesday, 10 November 2009 15:01 AFP

Students walk past Independence Monument holding balloons as part of the parade to celebrate 56 years since the Kingdom’s split from former colonial ruler France.

Kingdom celebrates independence

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
King Norodom Sihamoni greets his military honour guard as he arrives at the Independence Monument in Phnom Penh for a ceremony on Monday marking the 56th anniversary of the country’s independence from French colonial rule.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Tuesday, 10 November 2009 15:03 Cheang Sokha

KING Norodom Sihamoni and senior government officials have kicked off three days of celebrations marking the 56th anniversary of the country’s independence from French colonial rule.

In a ceremony at the city’s Independence Monument on Monday morning, the King and prominent government figures, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim and other high-ranking officials, watched as balloons and pigeons were released to mark the country’s birth as an independent nation.

Nhem Valy, deputy secretary general of the Permanent Committee for National and International Ceremonies, said a candle placed inside the monument will remain burning for three days before it is put out on Wednesday afternoon.

“There will be fireworks and traditional performances in the evening to celebrate,” he said.

Cambodia gained its independence on November 9, 1953, after a concerted campaign by then-King Norodom Sihanouk, bringing to an end the French protectorate established over the Kingdom in 1863.

November 9 also marks the 56th anniversary of the establishment of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.

Mu Sochua, a lawmaker for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), whose officials also took part in Monday’s ceremony, said Independence Day was a time to reflect on Norodom Sihanouk’s efforts to free the country from foreign domination.

“Lawmakers from the SRP attended this morning’s ceremony because we are Cambodian,” she said. “We are Cambodians devoted to the protection of [our] territorial integrity.”

Death points to perils of maternity

Photo by: Irwin Loy
Ly Kok Meng, whose pregnant wife died after being administered serum in a hospital Saturday, says he plans to pursue legal action.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Tuesday, 10 November 2009 15:02 Mom Kunthear and Chrann Chamroeun

LY KOK MENG felt his knees go weak as he held his dying wife in a hospital emergency room. Clutching her shivering body with both arms, the 35-year-old collapsed to his knees as staff at the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital surrounded him.

Just minutes before, doctors had given Ban Rany – 23 years old and nine months pregnant – an injection of serum. It took mere moments before she erupted into uncontrollable convulsions. Within 10 minutes, she was dead.

In one tumultuous Saturday, Ly Kok Meng lost his wife and what was to have been their second child. In the process, the incident sparked questions about why she died and shone another uncomfortable spotlight on the country’s still-troubling maternal mortality rate.

In an interview Monday, Ly Kok Meng said he was still in shock from his wife’s death, which he said was the result of carelessness on the part of the doctors.

“We trusted them,” he said. “If they had looked after her, she would not have died.”

Though he acknowledged that there had been prior complications – doctors treated Ban Rany for bleeding when she was seven months pregnant – he said she had fully recovered.

Since then, the couple had been attending weekly checkups, and she was expected to deliver in mid-November.

He took her to the hospital on Saturday, he said, because she had complained of a stomach ache. Doctors gave her the serum immediately after she arrived.

“She died not because of a stomach ache, but because of carelessness from the doctors that gave her the wrong medicine,” Ly Kok Meng said.

The hospital has denied any wrongdoing in the case.

“I think the woman’s husband should know that we helped his wife because he stayed with us the whole time and saw what we did in order to try to save his wife and child,” said Dr Say Sengly, the hospital’s director.

The serum was intended to boost the weakened woman’s energy, he said, adding that she had died because of an allergic reaction to it.

“We were not careless,” he said. “We tried to help his wife.”

A persistent problem
For maternal health specialists, Ban Rany’s death underscores the extent to which giving birth remains a perilous feat in the Kingdom.

Though a lack of antenatal-care providers and skilled birth attendants has been one of the most important roadblocks hindering efforts to reduce the maternal mortality rate – which, at 461 deaths per 100,000 live births, is the third-highest in the region – even women who have access to qualified doctors and schedule all the recommended appointments are not guaranteed a safe delivery, said Dr Veng Thai, former Phnom Penh municipal health director.

Though he could not provide specific figures, Veng Thai said a number of hospitals in Phnom Penh were short of doctors able to provide emergency obstetric care. Together with funding shortages, which he said were common at smaller hospitals, this factor severely affects the quality of medical advice and treatment pregnant women in the capital can receive.

“Especially at small hospitals with not enough money and not enough staff, carelessness can be a problem,” he said.

Veng Thai said it was unclear whether the doctors at the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital had been careless in the case of Ban Rany, though he said he would be surprised if they had committed any serious errors.

“These doctors were probably skilled and had plenty of capacity because they work at a famous hospital,” he said.

Nevertheless, as Ly Kok Meng prepares for his wife’s funeral, he said he is also preparing to file a legal complaint against the hospital.

“I have lost my beloved,” he said. “We were married for five years, and we never once had a fight. She was still so young.”


US hails respect for faith

Photo by: Brendan Brady
Cham Muslims from the local Imam San sect study a Quran during a celebration in Oudong last year. A US state department report says the country remains a safe haven for all religions.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Tuesday, 10 November 2009 15:02 Sam Rith and Sebastian Strangio

CAMBODIA remains a safe haven for religious freedom, the US state department wrote in a report last week.

The “2009 Report on International Religious Freedom”, which covered 198 countries and territories from July 2008 to June this year, found the Cambodian government “respected religious freedom in practice” in line with protections contained in the Kingdom’s 1993 Constitution.

“There were few reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief or practice,” stated the report. An estimated 93 percent of the population follows Theravada Buddhism, according to the report, but the country is also home to between 500,000 and 700,000 Muslims and a 282,000-strong Christian community dispersed among 100 organisations and denominations.

Michael Freeze, a Baptist missionary who has worked in Cambodia since 2000, said he was not surprised by the report’s conclusions.

“If you’re doing things correctly, in an aboveboard way, you’ve got nothing to fear here,” he said.

“In some ways it’s more free than in the United States.”

Although Article 43 of the Constitution establishes Buddhism as the state religion, it also promises that freedom of religious belief “shall be guaranteed by the State” on the condition it “does not affect other religious beliefs or violate public order and security”.

The State Department report cited local fears that Cham Muslims have received “financial assistance” from foreign countries, but found Chams were “well-integrated into society, held prominent positions in business and the government, and faced no reported acts of discrimination or abuse” during the reporting period.

Observers have long expressed concerns that the country’s Muslim population could be vulnerable to attempts by religious extremists from other parts of the Muslim world to “re-Islamise” their communities.

In 2003, Hambali, one of the architects of the 2002 Bali bombings, spent several months at a Phnom Penh guesthouse, and radicals from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Malaysia have also been suspected of using Cambodia as a base.

Min Khin, the minister of cults and religions, said on Monday that the government has made great efforts to respect the religious beliefs of all of its inhabitants, including the Cham Muslim minority.

“For students who respect Islam, we offer the right for them to wear either their school uniform or their religious clothes,” he said.

He also said the government allowed Cham Muslims to make religious radio and television broadcasts in their own language, programmes that are also supported by the US government.

Sos Kamry, grand mufti of the High Commission of Islamic Affairs of Cambodia, said he had never experienced any pressure from the government to curb Islamic practices.

Sos Kamry contrasted the country’s stance with that of Singapore, which he said forbids mosques from using loudspeakers to broadcast the daily calls to prayer.

Families at airport seek parley with City Hall

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Tuesday, 10 November 2009 15:02 May Titthara

MORE than 100 families living near Phnom Penh International Airport plan to send a letter to City Hall requesting a meeting to discuss compensation offers ahead of their looming relocation deadline, residents said Monday.

On November 5, Dangkor district Governor Kroch Phan informed residents living along Russian Boulevard and Choam Chao street that they would have from Wednesday to December 11 to voluntarily dismantle their homes, and that families remaining after the deadline would face “administrative measures”. This notice followed a preliminary warning, issued in April.

Residents were told they have three options: voluntarily remove their houses and receive and unspecified amount of compensation, voluntarily relocate to a site along Russian Boulevard, or be forcibly relocated. Their removal is necessary for an expansion of the airport and the construction of a public park, Kroch Phan said.

“If they do not allow us to meet with them, we will hold a protest in front of City Hall because we want to find justice,” said Uth Teng Sakhorn, a representative of the residents.

“The authorities have regarded us as animals. They did not talk with us: They just released the eviction notice and told us to demolish our homes.”

Kroch Phan said residents were welcome to protest at City Hall, though he said that in issuing the eviction notice, he was only following City Hall’s orders.

“They can protest; it’s their right,” he said. “We don’t have to issue compensation for them because they are living illegally on a public sidewalk.”

WHO sees local shots for A(H1N1) by year-end

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Tuesday, 10 November 2009 15:02 Jacob Gold

THE World Health Organisation (WHO) will give Cambodia stocks of the A(H1N1) influenza vaccine sometime late this year, though with supply levels still uncertain, the organisation plans on prioritising access to the vaccine for high-risk groups.

Ly Sovann, deputy director of the Communicable Diseases Control Department at the Ministry of Health, announced the WHO commitment on Friday. He said that while Cambodia waits for the WHO delivery, much can still be done in the way of prevention.

“Even with the vaccine [available], hygienic practices are still the most important defence,” he said. “We continue to advise people about sanitation and how to avoid exposure to the virus.”

Nima Asgari, a WHO public health specialist, said the exact sources of the vaccines, which will be donated to Cambodia by manufacturers and foreign governments, remained uncertain.

“We know it will be difficult to cover everyone, so at the moment, we recommend that the vaccine be first [given] to special groups,” he said.

Chief among these, he said, were healthcare workers, who are not only constantly exposed to the virus, but are also “the front line” of the fight against the disease. Other groups at risk of developing severe cases of swine flu include pregnant women, young children and people with chronic respiratory illnesses, he added.

Ly Sovann said that as of Wednesday, in-country infections of the A(H1N1) virus, commonly known as swine flu, had risen to 313.

Four people have died from swine flu since it was detected in Cambodia in June.