Monday, 16 November 2009

Thaksin departs Kingdom

Photo by: AFP
Protesters from Thailand’s nationalist People’s Alliance for Democracy demonstrate Sunday in Bangkok over Thaksin’s visit to Cambodia and statements in an interview considered by some to be insulting to the king.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 16 November 2009 15:03 Post Staff

FUGITIVE former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra left Cambodia on Saturday, leaving in his wake a storm of controversy and allegations of espionage that have plunged relations between Cambodia and Thailand to their lowest point in years.

Thaksin, who has travelled on passports from nations including Nicaragua and Montenegro since fleeing Thailand last year to avoid a prison term for corruption, departed from Siem Reap on his private jet after playing a round of golf with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday and meeting with close to 50 members of parliament from his country’s opposition Puea Thai party.

The stakes of the diplomatic row between Cambodia and Thailand, touched off earlier this month with the Cambodian government’s announcement that it had appointed Thaksin an official economics adviser, reached new heights last week with the arrest of 31-year-old Siwarak Chotipong, a Thai national who worked in Phnom Penh for Cambodia Air Traffic Services Co and is accused of espionage following the alleged theft of Thaksin’s flight schedule.

Sok Phal, National Police deputy chief and director of the Ministry of Interior’s Central Security Department, said last Thursday’s expulsion of the first secretary of the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh was a direct result of Siwarak’s case. Thailand responded to this move by expelling the first secretary of the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok, after both countries had already withdrawn their respective ambassadors.

“[Siwarak] stole the special flight schedule of Mr Thaksin and handed it to the first secretary of the Thai embassy,” Sok Phal said, accusing the Thai first secretary, Kamrob Palawatwichai, of ordering the theft.

Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said Sunday that the government had received a note from the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh requesting permission to meet with Siwarak in detention and had forwarded the note to the Ministry of Interior. The ministry, Koy Kuong said, is likely to accept the request.

Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to Thailand’s foreign minister, said Thai officials were determined to meet with Siwarak and settle the case.

“We have to see him, whatever happens,” Chavanond said. “Thailand categorically denies all of the spy allegations.”

Koy Kuong said there is “written evidence” implicating Siwarak in the espionage plot, though he declined to elaborate further on the investigation.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Deputy Prosecutor Sok Roeun said Siwarak is now in pretrial detention at Prey Sar prison and is being charged under Article 19 of the 2005 Law on Archives, which covers offences related to matters of national defence, security or public order. If convicted, Sivarak faces a jail term of between seven and 15 years, and a fine of between 5 million and 25 million riels (US$1,198-$5,990).

In a mass protest against Thaksin’s Cambodia trip, members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) rallied in Bangkok on Sunday afternoon. Bangkok police estimated that 17,000 protesters gathered for the event on a downtown Bangkok parade ground.

“Our duty is to protect and preserve the country’s honour and dignity and the monarchy. Cambodia violated the extradition treaty and allowed a convicted person to be its adviser,” senior PAD leader Somsak Kosaisuk said.

The nationalist PAD said it was also gathering to express outrage at comments that billionaire Thaksin made in a newspaper interview in which he called for reform of institutions around Thailand’s revered monarchy.

The issue is sensitive because 81-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej – a major force for stability in the politically divided nation – has been in hospital for the past two months.

National police deputy spokesman Piya Utayo said around 1,500 police officers were deployed for the rally.

Thaksin, who was deposed in a 2006 coup, was thought to be bound for Dubai on Saturday.


Trade, Myanmar dominate summit

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Monday, 16 November 2009 15:03 Cheang Sokha and Sebastian Strangio

REGIONAL trade and the fate of jailed Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi dominated talks between US president Barack Obama and regional leaders at the inaugural US-ASEAN summit in Singapore on Sunday, overshadowing the recent dispute between Cambodia and Thailand.

Kao Kim Hourn, secretary of state at Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the diplomatic spat over Phnom Penh’s appointment of Thai former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser was not raised during the official talks, but that Prime Minister Hun Sen and Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono spoke about the issue in sideline talks on Sunday.

“Indonesia just wanted to know the current situation between Cambodia and Thailand,” Kao Kim Hourn told reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport following his return from Singapore, adding the Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva did not have the time to meet for discussions on the issue, which has caused relations between the two nations to deteriote rapidly in recent weeks.

Kao Kim Hourn said much of the discussion centred on the importance of trade between ASEAN and the US in a time of global financial uncertainty.

“For the US, ASEAN is an important partner for trade and investment,” he said.

“The leaders of ASEAN and the US want to see trade and investment increase on both sides.”

Kao Kim Hourn said Prime Minister Hun Sen raised the issue of the global financial crisis and urged all ASEAN countries to work with the US to find a solution to strengthen trade and investment, including tourism.

During talks, US President Barack Obama also appealed to military-ruled Myanmar to release all of its political prisoners, including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and expressed hopes that an election scheduled for next year is conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner.

“I reaffirmed the policy that I put forward yesterday in Tokyo with regard to Burma,” Obama told reporters, using the former name of the country that has kept Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for most of the past two decades.

Although the Cambodia-Thailand dispute was not raised at the summit, Foreign Ministry officials say the government remains conducive to a multilateral solution to the current impasse.

“We can accept any kind of solution – bilateral, multilateral, regional or international,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said on Sunday. “It’s up to the Thai side. We welcome any solution, so long as the Thais agree.”

Bangkok continues to oppose the prospect of third-party mediation, saying it has a “long-standing policy” of addressing the Cambodia issue bilaterally. Thani Thongphakdi, deputy spokesman of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Thailand saw “no need” to regionalise the issue because it poses no threat to the region.

“The issue is one which is evolving rather rapidly, and we are following the Cambodian side to see how they will proceed on the issue,” he said.


Thaksin visit backfired, analysts say

Photo by: AFP
Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks with former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra before his departure from Siem Reap airport on Saturday.

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Monday, 16 November 2009 15:03 James O'Toole

THAKSIN Shinawatra’s trip to Cambodia last week, though brief, may hold long-term consequences for the fugitive former Thai prime minister’s hopes of a political comeback on his native soil, analysts say.

Though Cambodia called Thaksin’s appointment as government economics adviser an “internal affair”, the deposed premier’s trip was the closest he has come to Thailand since fleeing last year to avoid a jail term for corruption, and was widely seen as a bid to reinject himself into Thai politics and put pressure on the government of current Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen also joined the offensive against Abhisit, who gained his seat last year through a vote of parliament rather than a general election, telling reporters last week that Abhisit had “stolen” the premiership and challenging his Thai counterpart to call new elections.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, too, offered an implicit but uppercase attack on Abhisit’s legitimacy in justifying its decision not to extradite Thaksin.

“The condemnation of HE Mr Thaksin Shinawatra is logically the consequence of the military coup d’etat in September 2006 ... while he was OVERWHELMINGLY and DEMOCRATICALLY elected by the Thai people,” its statement released last week read.

Now that Thaksin has left, however, political observers are suggesting that his gamble may prove self-defeating, giving Abhisit the opportunity to secure a popular mandate.

“If Thaksin’s not careful, this could be a turn-off among his supporters,” Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political analyst at Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University, said last week. “It’s one thing to fight among ourselves, as Thais have done for the past four years, but once you have an outside hand intervening, Thais may unite against that outside force.”

This unity may be the legacy of Thaksin’s trip, according to Bertil Lintner, a political journalist and author based in Thailand, who said the ex-premier’s Cambodia visit “has backfired badly at home in Thailand”.

Lintner cited a survey conducted by Bangkok’s Assumption University ABAC poll earlier this month, as the Thaksin controversy was gathering steam, in which Abhisit scored a 68.6 percent approval rating, compared with his performance of 23.6 percent in September.

Abhisit’s biggest gains, Lintner noted, came in northern and northeastern Thailand, traditional Thaksin strongholds. A more recent ABAC poll found 51.9 percent of respondents approved of Abhisit’s handling of the bilateral row, the Bangkok Post reported Sunday.

Abhisit, who is not required to call elections until the end of his current term in 2011, has shown signs he is paying attention to these numbers. “The likelihood is that there will be early elections once the economy is firmly grounded,” he told The Wall Street Journal on Saturday, without mentioning a specific date.

Andrew Walker, a Southeast Asia expert from the Australian National University, said Thaksin may not have counted on an upswing of nationalist sentiment in Thailand during the diplomatic dispute, adding that “at least some of [Thaksin’s] supporters may be a bit puzzled as to why he seems to be siding with Cambodia.”

Lintner said there are “many Red Shirts who wish [Thaksin] would leave Cambodia as soon as possible”, though he noted that it is too early to say whether the apparent mood swing of the Thai electorate will be permanent.

Thaksin himself maintained over the course of his time in Cambodia that he was here simply to provide economic advice. Asked about the economic future of Thailand during a lecture he delivered last Thursday at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, however, he could not help but mention his country’s fractious domestic politics.

“The future of the Thai economy depends on reconciliation. If there is no reconciliation, trust and confidence will never come back to Thailand,” he said, adding: “They need the proper people to run the government.”

Sex work lures unemployed

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Girls wait for customers in front of a karaoke parlour in Phnom Penh. The UNIAP has expressed concern that laid-off garment workers will be drawn into sex work to help suport their families.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 16 November 2009 15:03 Mom Kunthear

BETWEEN 15 and 20 percent of former garment workers who have lost their jobs as a result of the global economic crisis have joined the capital’s entertainment sector, sparking concerns that many have embraced sex work as a last-ditch means of supporting their families, a UN official said Sunday.

Lim Tith, the national project coordinator for the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP), said he had arrived at the figure by combining new data with the results of a July survey that found that “declining working conditions” were forcing an increasing number of Cambodian women into the sex trade.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Labour, more than 30,000 garment workers lost their jobs in the first three quarters of 2009, meaning that, if Lim Tith’s estimate is accurate, at least 4,500 women have entered the entertainment sector this year alone. The jobs of a further 30,000 garment workers have been suspended.

Lim Tith said many of the women view the “entertainment sector” – which includes karaoke bars, massage parlours and brothels – as their only option.

“I think that they don’t want to, but they have no choice but to work in those places because of pressure to support their families,” he said.

The UNIAP survey found that the most commonly cited reason for entering the sex trade was “difficult family circumstances”, followed by relatively higher earnings and better conditions than those they encountered in factories.

More training needed: NGOs
Several NGOs said they hoped the new estimate would prompt the government to ramp up efforts to provide vocational training to former garment workers who had lost their jobs.

“The government is aware of the problem. That’s one thing. The second thing is to act,” said Pung Chhiv Kek, founder of the rights group Licadho.

“We would expect that when these poor garment workers lose their jobs because of the crisis, the government would have a proactive programme to train them and to help them find work.”

Mey Sovannara, communications coordinator for the HIV/AIDS NGO Khana, echoed this point, saying: “The government has to focus on vocational training centres to provide training to the women for skills other than serving, like weaving, so they can run their own shop.”

Hor Malin, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said the government had been trying to assist these women and would continue to do so.

“We have never been careless with them when they don’t have work to do, even though we cannot help all of them,” she said. “We’ve tried very hard to train them in new skills in order to find a solution for them.”

She added, though, that the ministry also hopes some of the former garment workers would leave the capital.

“Of course, I cannot prevent them from working in the entertainment sector, but according to our ministry’s strategy, we want them to stop and go back to their homeland to do farming or feed the animals,” she said. “It’s better than working in a karaoke parlour or as a beer promoter.”

This suggestion, however, was dismissed by Pung Chhiv Kek as unrealistic.

“They can’t go back to their villages because they have to get money for their families,” she said.

AIDS award spurs questions

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Cambodian first lady Bun Rany attends last year’s World AIDS Day celebrations in Phnom Penh.

(Posted by CAAI News media)

Monday, 16 November 2009 15:02 Robbie Corey Boulet

A UN special envoy is scheduled to present first lady Bun Rany with an award recognising her role in combating HIV/AIDS and in reducing stigma and discrimination against people living with the disease, a move that has raised some eyebrows among human rights groups, one of which called it “a slap in the face”.

The Asia-Pacific Leadership Forum on HIV/AIDS and Development Award will be presented by Dr Nafis Sadik, the UN secretary general’s special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, during a ceremony Tuesday at the headquarters of the Cambodian Red Cross, which Bun Rany heads.

UNAIDS Country Director Tony Lisle said Sunday that the decision to present the award to Bun Rany had been prompted by her “very, very, very active” role in HIV/AIDS issues.

“Her focus has been very specific,” he said. “It’s been particularly focused on orphans and vulnerable children, the rights of people to access anti-retroviral therapy and also engaging communities at the local level in reducing stigma and discrimination.”

He added: “I know that in cases where children have been excluded from school, she’s intervened and sent very clear messages about the inappropriateness of exclusion on the basis of one’s HIV status,” he said.

The adult HIV prevalence rate stood at 0.9 percent in 2006, far below the 2015 Millennium Development Goal of 1.8 percent, though the baseline used to set that goal was later revised downward.

Award questionable: NGOs
This accomplishment aside, several human rights workers said the government’s record on HIV/AIDS issues was blemished at best.

“This award is a slap in the face for Cambodians living with HIV and those most at risk, especially sex workers, homeless people and people who use drugs,” said Joe Amon, director of health and human rights for Human Rights Watch. “Rather than uncritical praise, UNAIDS should be speaking out about this government’s discrimination, stigmatisation and neglect of Cambodia’s most marginalised communities.”

Amon cited this year’s Borei Keila eviction as an example of poor treatment of HIV/AIDS patients. City Hall forcibly relocated 40 HIV-affected Borei Keila families to the Tuol Sambo relocation site in June and July. Rights groups have regularly criticised conditions at the site, which have included a lack of food and oppressive heat.

Though she was less critical of the decision to give the award, Pung Chhiv Kek, founder of the rights group Licadho, said she hoped it would prompt Bun Rany to take action in preventing Borei Keila-style evictions in the future.

“I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to her that recently, there have been some families that have HIV/AIDS, and the government put them in a special place,” she said. “I hope that she will do something so that these people have the possibility to live with the rest of the population. It’s a kind of discrimination.”

In response to civil society criticism, Lisle said he agreed that Tuol Sambo was “a big mistake”, but he argued that the award was justified.

Tuol Sambo, he said, “does not in any way take away from Cambodia’s excellent track record in reducing stigma and discrimination.”

Chi Kraeng villagers remain locked up

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Monday, 16 November 2009 15:02 Rann Reuy

Siem Reap Province

SEVEN villagers from Chi Kraeng commune who were acquitted last month of robbery and causing injury in an ongoing land dispute remain behind bars awaiting trial on separate charges, lawyers said Sunday.

Defence lawyer Ly Sochetra said additional robbery charges had been filed against the villagers, who were arrested following a March 22 altercation during which 100 armed police opened fire on 80 villagers caught harvesting crops on land that officials have ruled is part of Anlong Samnor commune.

Nine villagers were arrested. During their trial last month, two were found guilty of causing injury, sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to pay compensation. Provincial court prosecutor Ty Soveinthal, however, said Sunday that those charges stemmed not from the March 22 altercation but from a March 18 fight between villagers from the neighbouring districts. The outstanding charges, he said, were in connection with the March 22 altercation. Deputy prosecutor Toch Pheakdey said he did not know when a trial would be held for the outstanding charges.

MURDER: Swedish man killed

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Monday, 16 November 2009 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun


Police in Kandal province have launched a murder investigation after the body of a Swedish national was found Saturday in Kandal Stung district. Officials have identified the man as Janola Jordansson, 45. Police are saying little about how he died, except that his body showed obvious signs of trauma to the head when it was discovered by local residents. Provincial police Deputy Chief Roeun Nara said the man was probably killed at a different location before his body was deposited on the side of a road in Kandal Stung’s Preak Kampoeus commune. “The man was killed somewhere else before his body was dropped off,” Roeun Nara said. Kol Sophat, police chief in Chamkarmon district’s Boeung Keng Kang I commune in Phnom Penh, confirmed that Jordansson had been staying at a local hotel before he was killed. “We don’t know the exact reasons for [Jordansson’s] killing,” Roeun Nara said. “We have some clues to identify perpetrators in this case, but we cannot elaborate more.” The victim’s family has been notified by officials at the Swedish embassy, Roeun Nara said.

SRP pledges to sit out vote on immunity

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Monday, 16 November 2009 15:02 Vong Sokheng

A MAJORITY of opposition parliamentarians said they will boycott a session of the National Assembly today, after lawmakers with the ruling party refused to delay plans to vote on stripping party leader Sam Rainsy of his parliamentary immunity.

Twenty-three of 26 parliamentarians in the opposition Sam Rainsy Party plan to boycott today’s extra session of the National Assembly, said SRP lawmaker Chea Poch. The party had demanded that today’s vote be postponed and an investigation instead be launched into reports that Sam Rainsy uprooted six wooden posts along the tenuous border with Vietnam last month.

“We need the National Assembly to establish a special committee with lawmakers from different political parties in order to conduct an investigation into the controversial border-demarcation process between the local authorities of Cambodia and Vietnam,” Chea Poch said Sunday.

“To take away Sam Rainsy’s immunity without investigation clearly shows the National Assembly is under the influence of the Cambodian People’s

Cheam Yeap, a senior lawmaker with the CPP, said Sunday that the National Assembly will vote on suspending Sam Rainsy’s immunity today at the request of the Ministry of Justice.

“Removing Sam Rainsy’s immunity is following the legal process of the Kingdom’s Constitution,” Cheam Yeap said.

It is a move that paves the way for Sam Rainsy to face legal scrutiny for his actions. The opposition leader sparked controversy last month after overseeing the removal of wooden posts that were loosely marking the border alongside Vietnam in Svay Rieng province. Sam Rainsy has said he was standing up for the rights of villagers who claimed Vietnamese authorities had illegally moved the posts further into Cambodian territory.

However, Vietnam’s foreign ministry called the act “perverse” and urged Cambodia to protect the two nations’ ongoing border-demarcation process.

Group protests ruling on judge

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Monday, 16 November 2009 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

A LEADING human rights group has expressed its concern about the outcome of a Ministry of Justice investigation into Ratanakkiri Judge Thor Saron, accused of using a pickup truck confiscated during a murder investigation.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) rejected the ministry’s ruling that Thor Saron’s use of the truck was permissible since it was “in response to an actual demand and was in the public interest”.

“The CCHR opines that this revelation is contrary to the evidence against Judge Thor and is disappointed by what it considers a missed opportunity for the Justice Ministry,” the statement said, adding it would write to King Norodom Sihamoni in a bid to reopen the invesigation.

CCHR president Ou Virak said the ruling set a “horrible precedent” by legitimising the confiscation of private property by court officials.

“This will add a lot of incentive for judges to confiscate valuables,” he said. “This is an ongoing problem with the Cambodian courts in general.”

Kim Sophorn, a court inspector at the Ministry’s General Inspection Department said Thar Saron’s use of the truck did not warrant further punitive action. “For reasons of necessity, it was used for transporting culprits and prisoners from prison to prosecution at the court house,” he said.

When contacted on Sunday, Thor Saron welcomed the inspection team’s assessment but did not comment further.

Land Dispute: Authorities harvesting evictees’ rice fields

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Monday, 16 November 2009 15:01 May Titthara

Land Dispute

Families who fled evictions in Oddar Meanchey province say the same authorities who burned their homes to the ground are now harvesting their vacant rice fields. “Next year, we will die because we will not have rice to feed ourselves,” said Huoy Chhuoy, who represents 214 affected families. About 70 families fled to Phnom Penh after their houses were razed last month. The provincially sanctioned evictions were the result of a long-simmering dispute over some 1,500 hectares of land between the villagers and the Angkor Sugar Company, owned by Ly Yongphat, a senator in the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. Police and government officials said they only harvested the rice to help the villagers. “We harvested people’s rice, and we will share it with them,” said Samraong district Governor Thon Nol. However, authorities will sell some of the rice to pay for the cost of renting a machine to harvest the crops, he added. As well, only people who “live on the land” will receive the rice, he said. “We do not have any plan to share the rice with people who run away.”

Progress against HIV at risk

Photo by: Sovan Philong
An orphaned child with HIV/AIDS is cared for by nurses at Takhmao Hospital earlier this year.

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Monday, 16 November 2009 15:01 Joe Amon

The government’s continuing disregard for human rights could prevent Cambodia from reaching its HIV goals

Joe Amon

CAMBODIA is considered one of the few success stories in the global fight against AIDS. HIV is on the decline: More than 2 percent of adults were affected in 1997; a decade later, HIV prevalence is 0.8 percent.

According to UNAIDS, “Cambodia provides evidence that well-focused and sustained prevention efforts can help reverse an HIV epidemic.”

Antiretroviral therapy is currently provided to around two-thirds of those who need it, up from 14 percent in 2004. Cambodia is also praised – and rightly so – for its progressive AIDS law protecting people living with HIV from discrimination. Those are impressive accomplishments.

Yet, human rights abuses against populations particularly vulnerable to HIV infection threaten the government’s success. The positive achievements of government health authorities and their partners have been outmatched in the past year by the negative actions of the police, Ministry of Social Affairs and municipal authorities; so far, health is losing. The real casualties have been among the most marginalised of Cambodians: those caught up in street sweeps, detained or forcibly evicted from Phnom Penh.

People considered “undesirable” – the homeless, sex workers, drug users, street children – are regularly arrested and detained by police and Social Affairs staff in advance of national holidays or visits by foreign dignitaries. Many people living with HIV are caught up in these campaigns. In May, Human Rights Watch talked to one homeless woman who was detained by Daun Penh district police during the ASEAN-EU foreign ministers meeting. When she asked a police officer to return her confiscated HIV medicine, he replied: “You complain a lot! Jump into the truck!”

In the leadup to Phnom Penh’s annual water festival earlier this month, similar detentions took place. The deputy governor of Daun Penh district claimed that sex workers were arrested for HIV-prevention purposes, explaining: “We don’t want to see the boat racers bringing diseases such as HIV/AIDS back to their wives.”

People who use drugs, and particularly those who inject, are another group at risk – both for HIV infection and police abuse. The number of people who use drugs in Cambodia is hard to determine, but it is thought to be between 10,000 and 20,000; at least one in four people who inject drugs are estimated to be HIV-positive. Instead of addressing either the issue of drug use or HIV with evidence-based measures, however, the mainstay of the government’s strategy has been detention.

Cambodia has established 11 drug detention “rehabilitation” centres around the country. The “treatment” they provide? Forced physical exercises, military drills and hard labour. People in detention are recognised by UNAIDS as being at a heightened risk of HIV infection, but in addition to failing to provide effective drug dependency treatment, the centres provide neither HIV prevention nor treatment. These centres should be shut down and voluntary, in-community drug-dependency treatment developed in their place.

Another example of government policies undermining health goals and violating the HIV law was the forced eviction of some 40 families from Borei Keila in June to a de facto AIDS colony on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

Protests by Cambodian and international HIV and human rights groups generated scrambled visits by UNAIDS and the national AIDS authority, but the basic situation is unchanged: Those who were forced to move remain far from jobs and isolated from medical facilities and support services. Although local nongovernmental organisations have a long-term plan to improve housing conditions and begin income-generating activities, the situation for these families remains precarious.

In June 2006, the Cambodian government committed itself to achieving ambitious national targets for providing universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010. Now, three years later, a UN delegation has come to Phnom Penh to review what progress has been made. The delegation should pay close attention to the Cambodian government’s failure to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of those at highest risk of HIV. The actions of the police, Ministry of Social Affairs and municipal authorities should be particularly scrutinised.

Joe Amon is director of the Health and Human Rights division at Human Rights Watch.

Trade with Hong Kong dismal up to end of Q3

Containers sit beside Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong. Cambodian trade with the territory has suffered this year as the Kingdom has imported less telecommunications equipment and raw materials. BLOOMBERG

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 16 November 2009 15:01 May Kunmakara

Data shows bilateral trade fell nearly 25 percent up to end of September, but Cambodia increases garment exports to SAR

BILATERAL trade between Cambodia and Hong Kong fell 24.6 percent year on year in the first nine months of 2009 to US$364 million, figures released Friday by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) show.

Cambodia’s exports to the Chinese special autonomous region grew 37.7 percent over the period, but accounted for just 2.9 percent of trade between the two countries at $10.7 million.

Although imports from Hong Kong fell 25.6 percent over the nine months, the Kingdom was still left with a $342.6 million trade deficit.

Most trade between the two countries consisted of re-exports. Around half of Cambodia’s exports to Hong Kong were re-exported, and just $16.1 million worth of goods imported from Hong Kong were actually produced there.

HKTDC Indochina Director Tina Phan said by email Friday that there was plenty of scope for Cambodian producers to use Hong Kong as an export base for their products.

“Cambodian companies can use the Hong Kong platform to further export their products to both Hong Kong and to other markets,” she said. “This we have not seen much" to date.

The downturn in trade volumes was largely a result of the “challenging” external environment since the fourth quarter of 2008, Phan added.

“Total trade with Cambodia slowed due to a downsizing of orders from overseas, mainly from the United States and European Union, both of which have been affected by the financial crash,” she said.

Aside from telecommunications parts and equipment, the bulk of Cambodia’s imports from Hong Kong are raw materials for its garment sector, which has been hit hard by falling consumer demand in the US and EU. Cambodia’s garment exports fell 21.66 percent over the first nine months of the year to $1.78 billion, Ministry of Commerce figures released last week show.

Cambodia’s imports of raw materials from Hong Kong have fallen in line with the downturn. Imports of knitted or crocheted fabrics, which account for almost a third of Hong Kong’s exports to the Kingdom, declined 36.6 percent over the period to $112.1 million. Woven cotton fabrics, representing 12.9 percent of exports, fell 30.8 percent, and textile yarn (7.3 percent of the total) fell 30.4 percent.

Cambodia’s imports of telecommunications parts and equipment from Hong Kong were down 16 percent over the period to $38 million, representing 10.8 percent of all imports. Tobacco imports were up 27.8 percent to $4.9 million.

Commerce Ministry Secretary of State Ok Boung said Cambodia’s exports to Hong Kong were dominated by exports of textiles and garment products from Hong Kong-owned factories.

More garments exported
Cambodia’s garment and textile exports to Hong Kong, which represent around 85 percent of the total, were up in all categories over the period.

Exports of processed crustaceans, molluscs and other aquatic invertebrates fell 10.2 percent to just over $1 million, representing 9.7 percent of total exports. Exports of fresh, chilled and frozen fish climbed 106.9 percent to $234,000.

From 1999 to 2008, Hong Kong’s exports of consumer goods to Cambodia grew at an average annual rate of 17.3 percent while its exports to ASEAN as a whole grew 6.7 percent, HKDTC figures show.

In 2008, Hong Kong exports of consumer goods to ASEAN totalled $5 billion, about 22 percent of Hong Kong’s total exports to the region.

Cambodia gets further boost from APEC poll

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Monday, 16 November 2009 15:01 Roger Mitton


CAMBODIA has the second-strongest case for inclusion in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), behind only India, according to an informal poll of business leaders from member countries in Singapore on Saturday.

The South Asian economic powerhouse was rated as having the strongest case for inclusion of the dozen nations that are understood to have expressed an interest in joining APEC when a moratorium on new members expires next year.

“Cambodia should be a member; it deserves to be,” said Dr Donald Gordon, executive director of The Riley Institute in the United States.

Six other countries are also viewed as having a strong case – Laos, Myanmar, Macau, Mongolia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Corporate heads from APEC’s current 21 member economies were asked to rate these aspirants according to which they felt had the best credentials.

India was widely expected to poll the top spot, as its huge and rapidly growing economy is viewed by most businessmen in the region as being essential to the further development of APEC.

Some business leaders felt that voters might turn away from Cambodia due to the ongoing dispute with Thailand over the appointment of former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Voters said Cambodia had a strong instrinsic right to be a member of APEC since it has a coastline open to the Pacific, it is already a member of the WTO and ASEAN, and, most importantly, it has an open trade policy of the kind that appeals to APEC members.

Police Blotter:

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Monday, 16 November 2009 15:01 Chrann Chamroeun

Eighteen women allegedly employed as sex workers at a restaurant in Battambang province’s Sampov Loun district were freed during a police raid on Thursday. Authorities said the restaurant was raided after they suspected that it also housed karaoke and guest rooms that allowed customers to buy sex from employees. Police arrested the restaurant’s owner and manager. The 18 women have been sent to the provincial Department of Social Affairs for rehabilitation.

A 44-year-old police officer from Kep was gunned down while dining with a woman at a streetside restaurant in Daun Penh district Thursday in what police say could have been a targeted hit. The victim, Hor Kim Meng, was shot twice by men who pulled up on a motorbike and later escaped, according to witnesses. Police are hunting for the suspects. The man’s companion was not injured in the shooting.

Police say a 17-year-old in Pursat province’s Krovanh district stabbed his father to death on Wednesday. The teenager has confessed to the killing, telling police that he committed the murder because he couldn’t tolerate his father “cursing, insulting and torturing” the family whenever he was drunk. The victim was stabbed to death in a rice field. Police say they believe that two of the suspect’s cousins were involved in the murder and are currently on the run. The son was sent to provincial court.

A 41-year-old widower in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district hanged himself Friday, police said. Neighbours said the man would continually complain that police were coming to arrest him. Stress drove him to smoke and drink heavily until he became noticeably skinny. The neighbours sensed something was awry Friday morning when the man failed to show up in town for his usual drinking session, and they later found his lifeless body in his house.

A 40-year-old man in Kampot province’s Samrong Kroam commune was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly beating his wife unconscious with a hammer. The suspect has faced charges of domestic abuse before. In 2001, he was convicted of breaking his wife’s hand and sentenced to three years in prison. In 2005, he hit his wife in the face and burned down their house.

MFI deposits rise during Q3

Customers use an ATM to withdraw money at ACLEDA Bank’s head office in Phnom Penh. Despite rising MFI deposits, industry analysts say customers still prefer to keep their money with banks.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 16 November 2009 15:00 Nguon Sovan

Amret and Sathapana say perceptions must change to realise deposit potential

DEPOSITS grew in the third quarter at the two Cambodian microfinance institutions (MFIs) licensed to hold savings, even as key sector figures said MFIs were struggling to overcome perceptions among Cambodians that their money was better off at home or in a registered bank.

Deposits at Amret, the second largest MFI by outstanding loans, grew 60 percent to US$1.6 million quarter on quarter in the three months ended September amid a promotional campaign, figures from the Cambodian Microfinance Association (CMA) show. Deposits at Sathapana, the third biggest microfinance lender, rose 12 percent to $2.47 million over the same period.

General Manager Chea Phalarin said public confidence in MFIs was increasing. However, even though Amret offered competitive deposit rates of 6 percent for a six-month term deposit and 8.5 percent over one year, customers still preferred to deposit savings at commercial banks where rates were generally around 6 percent, he said.

“Banks offer lower interest rates than MFIs, but some customers deposit at banks because they want access to other bank services,” said Chea Phalarin.

CMA president Hout Ieng Tong said the low public confidence in the ability of MFIs to manage money needed to be overcome for the good of the economy. Because of their wide rural networks, MFIs were well-positioned to absorb excess savings and reintroduce money to the economy through lending, reducing the country’s reliance on foreign borrowing, he said. MFIs and banks say the high cost of borrowing from abroad is a key reason for high rates in Cambodia.

Bun Mony, chairman of Sathapana, which offers 5 percent on six-month deposits and 7.5 percent on longer terms, said MFIs were well-placed to lead the change of public opinion required to encourage deposits.

“The traditional habit of Cambodian people is keeping money at home rather than depositing at MFIs or banks,” he said. “We want people to be aware that MFIs are not just a place where they can borrow money, but also a place they can deposit their money.”

Room to grow
According to a survey of the global microfinance sector published in September by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Cambodian MFIs have a lot of room to expand services and attract new customers. Although it ranked 14th out of 55 countries overall for its regulatory, investment and institutional environment, the country scored the lowest possible score for the range of MFI services offered – most providers stick to basic micro-credit.

CMA figures show 124,679 people deposited $7.38 million at MFIs by the end of the third quarter – 20.7 percent more in deposits by 17,700 additional depositors compared with three months earlier. The figures excluded ACLEDA Bank.

Stocks Roundu: Vimpelcom hits latest year high

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 16 November 2009 15:00 Steve Finch

VIMPELCOM, the parent of Cambodian mobile operator Beeline, continued its strong run on the New York Stock Exchange last week as it reached another year high Friday.

The stock climbed 1.66 percent to close at US$20.87 in Friday trade, a 6.92 percent jump over a week earlier, after Vimplecom’s General Director Alexander Torbakhov said Thursday that a recent purchase of Golden Telecom, which operates Kyivstar, had boosted business. The Moscow-based operator announced an interim dividend the previous week.

Vimplecom, which last month entered the Laos mobile sector, remains locked in a legal dispute with Cambodia’s leading mobile operator Mobitel over accusations of price dumping and Beeline’s alleged illegal use of the latter’s prefixes as special investigators continue to look into the case.

China Asean Resources Ltd climbed 1.45 percent Friday to HK$0.14 (US$0.019) in Hong Kong to end unchanged for the week despite posting dismal results Tuesday on its Cambodia and China investments.

In the first ninth months, the company reported losses of $2.858 million, following a $3.645 million profit for the same period last year, after its 10,000-hectare concession in Kratie province lay idle. The company blamed the Cambodian government’s overzealous enforcement of illegal logging regulations for the shutdown.

Southern Gold shares surge
Australian miner Southern Gold, which holds mineral concessions in Kratie, Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri provinces, saw its stock climb 23.71 percent last week on the Australia Stock Exchange to A$0.12 (US$0.112) after an announcement Wednesday of a significant gold find in Blair North, Western Australia.

The stock made significant gains over the past five days trading despite closing down 4 percent on Friday.

OZ Minerals, which said last month it was moving towards a gold resource in Cambodia, climbed 5.96 percent last week to A$1.25 (US$1.16) after falling 1.58 percent in Friday trading.

Over-the-counter stock Elray Resources, which operates mineral concessions in the north of the Kingdom, was down 5.26 percent for the week to $0.18, and Chevron, which continues to discuss a production contract with the government for offshore Block A, climbed 0.67 percent Friday to close up 0.53 percent at $77.94 over the past five days trading in New York.

JSM Indochina Ltd, which will hold a meeting on November 26 in a bid to solve an internal dispute related to its Cambodia and Vietnam investments, fell 2.26 percent in London Friday to £0.65 ($1.08) to end down 5.8 percent for the week.

Vanishing act: Cambodia's magical tattooists fade away

Cambodian tattooist Chan Trea works on a tattoo for a client at his house in Phnom Penh.

I guess in the future, things like magic will be very rare in this country.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 16 November 2009 15:00 Kounila Keo

It’s much harder to get a magic tattoo in Cambodia than it used to be, laments Chey Cham.

“I do have one tattoo of a python on my right upper-arm but it’s for beauty, not magic,” says the 30-year-old from the outskirts of Cambodia’s capital.

“That’s because I can’t find anywhere in my town to get a magic tattoo.”

For centuries, Cambodians have endured hours of procedures to obtain hand-drawn mystical tattoos believed to give them magical powers – but the tradition appears to be fading in the increasingly modern country.

Miech Ponn, adviser on mores and customs at Cambodia’s Buddhist Institute, says magic tattoos are believed to bring good luck or popularity, and are used by soldiers seeking to become invisible to enemies or repel bullets.

“Tattoos were really popular among Cambodian men in the past. Almost every Cambodian male was tattooed,” Miech Ponn says.

These days, he adds, superstitious people in rural areas are usually the ones who believe in magic.

“Until now science can’t break this superstition. I don’t know why it cannot.”

Tattooist Chan Trea notices the number of customers seeking him out in the belief they will obtain special powers has dwindled over the past decade.

“Usually, the Cambodian customers are police, soldiers, and fighters like boxers and martial artists,” Chan Trea says.

“But there is a decrease in people coming for magical reasons. I guess in the future, things like magic will be very rare in this country.”

Spells and the supernatural
The tattoos usually feature images of supernatural creatures, Hindu gods or characters from Pali and Sanskrit. Cambodian fighters are often adorned with intimidating images of a dragon, tiger or the monkey king Hanuman.

Chan Trea notes the tattoos can be administered by any traditional healer or Buddhist monk who has strong spiritual beliefs, but only a few remain alive who know how to use traditional long needles and recite magical spells.

These esteemed tattooists draw magic tattoos by hand with two or three sewing needles tied together, poking black, blue or red ink into the skin. But for those seeking powers, the process isn’t as simple as getting poked by a few needles, says Miech Ponn.

Those who drink alcohol or have extramarital affairs risk decreasing the magic from their tattoos, he says.

He adds that people getting the tattoos also must refrain from eating purple potatoes, gourds or star fruit to ensure the spells work, while for soldiers on the battlefield, stealing breaks a tattoo’s magic.

Cambodian heavyweight kickboxing champion Ei Phuthong says he owes part of his decade-long reign to his magic tattoos.

With a mystical flying creature and the Hindu god Vishnu on his back, as well as a “Great Weight” Pali symbol on his right hand, he believes he gets more power in his punch.

“Of course I believe in magic tattoos, though it is inexplicable,” Ei Phuthong says.
“They have helped me win. With them, I feel more than a match for my opponent in the ring.”

The belief in the power of tattoos is most evident among hardened Cambodian troops stationed near the Thai border, where a territorial dispute over the past year has killed seven soldiers.

One soldier near the area at the centre of the dispute, a 46-year-old who gives his name only as Oeurn, says he and most of his comrades have magic tattoos for protection.

The value of the magical Sanskrit patterns tattooed on his back and chest was proved, he says, during an April gunbattle which killed three Cambodian troops.

“At that time, many bullets were showered toward me,” Oeurn claims, “but magically they were averted away.”

Cambodia triumphs in final

Photo by: Andy Brouwer
Cambodian U23 stars Sun Sovannarith (left), Sou Yaty (centre) and team manager Vann Ly hold aloft the rewards after winning the BIDC Cup final Saturday.

Monday, 16 November 2009 15:00 Andy Brouwer

Kuoch Sokumpheak grabs a last-gasp winner to gain instant hero status in Saturday night’s BIDC Cup final against Vietnamese club Hoang Anh Gia Lai

THIRTY thousand Cambodian football fans rose as one Saturday night at Olympic Stadium as Cambodia’s talismanic striker Kuoch Sokumpheak sent his downward header into the net and restored the Cambodian U23’s lead with just three minutes of the BIDC Cup final remaining. It was nail-biting stuff as anxious spectators saw out those last few minutes, and a few more added on, before they could rise again to celebrate their country’s success in a euphoric conclusion to the weeklong tournament.

Cambodia head coach Scott O’Donell fielded a second-string lineup against V-League new boys Vissai Ninh Binh in their final BIDC Cup group match Thursday, which the Vietnamese outfit won 1-0. However, the Australian tactician selected his strongest squad to face Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) – who are expected to challenge for the V-League’s top honours next season – and the match kicked off under floodlights in front of a massive crowd eager with anticipation.

They didn’t have to wait long before Cambodia registered their intent. With 12 minutes on the clock, Kuoch Sokumpheak split the HAGL defence with a perfect through ball to his striking partner Chan Chhaya. Taking the pass in his stride, Chhaya unleashed a fierce drive inside the near post, and Cambodia were in front.

Sokumpheak himself went close a couple of times before Cambodia forged further ahead. Khim Borey, playing in a deeper midfield role than normal, sent over an inch-perfect corner kick, and Chan Chhaya rose unchallenged in the 6-yard box to head home his second goal in the 36th minute. The home crowd was enthralled, and Mexican waves began in earnest.

HAGL came back strongly, and made it clear they weren’t ready to give up when their Brazilian hitman Rodrigo Toledo evaded two tackles to blast his shot against the underside of the cross bar. Toledo claimed the ball had crossed the line, but the referee waved away his appeals and blew for halftime.

With the introduction of Doan Van Sakda after the interval, HAGL upped the tempo and pressed from the restart. It was Sakda’s corner nine minutes later that fell to Le Van Truong on the edge of the area, and his unstoppable drive gave Samrith Seiha in the Cambodian goal no chance as it arrowed into the net.

Just four minutes later, Cambodia’s lead had disappeared. Defender Pheak Rady dwelt too long on the ball close to his goal and lost possession to Tran Minh Thien, who made him pay a heavy price with a neat finish inside the near post.

The match swung from end to end, with Samrith Seiha’s handling an important factor in keeping Cambodia in the hunt, as was a last-ditch redemption tackle from Pheak Rady. Sokumpheak and substitute Prak Monyoudom had chances at the other end, and with the final whistle looming, extra time looked a certainty. That was until Sokumpheak’s late intervention.

Lay Raksmey had replaced Pheak Rady in the 80th minute, and the substitute delivered a sublime cross to the far post, where Sokumpheak was all alone to direct a header into the corner of the net to cue wild celebrations on and off the pitch. It was a memorable finish to an exciting game that earned the Cambodian team US$20,000 in prize money from sponsors Bank for Investment and Development of Cambodia (BIDC), and also a new motorbike for each team member.

For coach O’Donell it was a fitting result. “I am very happy to win the tournament,” he remarked. “It’s great. Look at the crowd. Everyone is very happy, and it’s great for the Cambodian team to get some success on home soil. The fans have been excellent in the way they’ve supported the boys tonight and throughout the competition.

“This has been a very important part of our preparations for the SEA Games. The whole tournament was aimed at that. Four games in six days is what we’ll be up against in the SEA Games.

“We made a couple of changes.... We got a good cross in and a good finish from Sokumpheak. I was very happy for Chhaya scoring his two goals. He works his backside off, and I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves.... He’s a good boy, he works hard, and he deserved it.”

Cambodia’s Samrith Seiha was voted the tournament’s best goalkeeper, Laos captain Kitsada was named the cup’s most valuable player and Evaldo Goncaves of HAGL collected the top scorer award. Each received $1,000 in prize money from the sponsors. In the third-place playoff earlier Saturday, Vissai Ninh Binh beat the Laos U23 side with a solitary goal from Dinh Hoang Max to collect the $5,000 reward.

Tennis Federation says players bound for Laos

Photo by: Khith Sipin/TFC
Cambodian national tennis players Bun Kenny (left) and Tan Nissan are greeted on arrival at Phnom Penh airport November 2.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Monday, 16 November 2009 15:00 Ung Chamroeun

THE Tennis Federation of Cambodia (TFC) has named the six delegates it will be sending to Laos for the upcoming SEA Games in December. The players include four males, Tan Nisann, Bun Kenny, Aun Sambath and Ek Chamroeun, and two females, Cheng Chornay and Cheng Srey Pich.

Chea Poev, assistant coach of the national team, said that the players have been preparing for the games for more than a year with Tan Nisann and Bun Kenny returning from France where they have trained for several years.

The coach added that since the end of the Pol Pot regime in 1979, Cambodia has participated in 10 tennis tournaments at theSEA Games, with their best result coming in 2007 in Thailand when Tan Nisann won bronze, although all other national players were knocked out in the first round.

Before arriving back in his native country on November 2, Bun Kenny joined the ATP World Tour in Thailand, but did not obtain a good result. Chea Poev hopes that his players will try their best to make history in tennis in December, noting that they’ve shown great promise and determination.

In the buildup to the SEA Games, the Cambodians have a chance to test their skills in the 14th Tep Khunnah Memorial Tennis Cup, which will be held November 20-28 at the Cambodian Country Club in Phnom Penh. This annual event is organised by the TFC to commemorate the Kingdom’s most celebrated tennis star, Tep Khunnah, ranked No 1 in Cambodia during the 1950s and 1960s, who died in 1995.

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

In Brief: Cambodia in hard group

Monday, 16 November 2009 15:00 ANDY BROUWER

The draw for the football group matches in the Southeast Asia Games in Laos next month has placed Cambodia in the very strong Group A. Cambodia will open their campaign against eight-time gold medallists Thailand on December 4 at 3pm at the Chao-Anu-Vong Stadium in central Vientiane. Their games come thick and fast, and two days later they meet Timor Leste at 5:45pm at the brand-new national stadium, some 20 kilometres outside of the city. On December 8 they are back at the Chao-Anu-Vong venue to meet Malaysia at 5:45pm, and then complete their group matches with another tough task against Vietnam on December 11 at 3pm at the same ground. Scott O’Donell and his U23 squad are off to Vietnam again today for another 10 days of intensive preparation at the Thanh Long facility just outside Ho Chi Minh City.

In Brief: Canadia, BIDC sign deal

Monday, 16 November 2009 15:00 Nathan Green

CANADIA Bank signed a memorandum of understanding on Saturday with the Vietnamese-owned Bank for Investment and Development of Cambodia to cooperate on lending and investment activities. Canadia Bank CEO Charles Vann said the deal cleared the way for the two banks to provide syndicated loans, including a US$33 million loan due to be signed with the Rural Development Bank to help farmers and rice millers improve rice quality for domestic and export markets. BIDC provided $28 million; Canadia Bank $3 million; and the Foreign Trade Bank, which is part owned by Canadia Bank, $2 million.

In Brief: Nautisco deals for $13m

Monday, 16 November 2009 15:00 Chun Sophal

NAUTISCO Seafood Manufacturing Ltd said Thursday it had secured US$13 million in contracts to supply fresh and processed shrimp to international and domestic markets for next year. Japanese and South Korean buyers had ordered around 1,200 tonnes and restaurants and hotels in Cambodia around 120 tonnes, Nautisco President Pov Sambath said. Cambodian Hotel Association President Luu Meng, who is also co-owner of Phnom Penh’s Thalias hospitality group, said the US$5 million plant, built in 2008, urged restaurants and hotels in the association to support the factory.

About 50% back Abhisit

By The Nation
Published on November 16, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

About one in two people commend Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for his measured leadership in dealing with the souring of relations with Cambodia.

About one in two people commend Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for his measured leadership in dealing with the souring of relations with Cambodia.

Three opinion surveys, released yesterday, were designed to gauge public sentiment on bilateral ties.

Abac Poll found that Abhisit was on the right track for staying calm in spite of the provocation.

About two in five people urged the prime minister to take "harsher" measures in light of the provocative developments.

More than half of the 1,344 respondents in the nationwide poll saw the heightening of tensions as a political game.

Suan Dusit Poll said seven in 10 people felt a stronger sense of patriotism following the diplomatic spat with Cambodia.

About four in five in the South cautioned fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra that he risked being seen as a traitor by accepting the appointment as an economic adviser to Cambodia, Hat Yai University Poll said.

Three in 10 believed Thaksin was putting his personal interest before that of the country's.

More than half of the 1,190 respondents expressed approval for the government's cancellation of the Thai-Cambodian memorandum of understanding on the overlapping area of the continental shelf.

One in two were optimistic that the mounting friction would not lead to war because the Thai government could keep the situation under control.

As for perceived security threats, one in four said Thaksin's offensive remarks against the monarchy were the most harmful to the country.

No threat yet to Thais in Cambodia

By The Nation
November 16, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The situation in Cambodia has not deteriorated to the point of warranting concern for the safety of Thai expatriates there, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thuagsuban said yesterday.

He also vowed that the Thai citizen charged with spying in Phnom Penh would receive due justice as guaranteed by international law.

"If necessary, the government stands ready to provide confirmation that the flight plan is not classified information and that the flight in question was known before the arrest of the Thai air-traffic controller," he said.

The Foreign Ministry and the Thai company operating air-traffic control services at Phnom Penh International Airport will provide legal assistance to Siwarak Chothipong, accused of leaking the flight plan of fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

"Even though the government is in no position to meddle with the Cambodian judicial process, the charge will likely be dropped in light of the evidence," he said.

Talks with Cambodia to mend fences at this juncture were unlikely to resolve any differences, he said.

The Cambodian government should take the welfare and benefits of the peoples of the two countries into consideration instead of acting on a whim to vent its displeas

ure at the Thai administration, he said.

The rumour of the arrest of another Thai spy, reportedly working in Siem Reap under Thailand's Armed Forces Security Centre, was unfounded, he said.

Thai citizens should remain calm and not act hastily to fall into the trap laid out by the Cambodian government, he said.

The future of Thai-Cambodian ties hinges on whether Cambodia would adjust its stance toward Thaksin, he said.

The Cambodian government appears to put more value in accommodating the fugitive rather than maintaining cordial relations with Thailand, he said.

The Foreign Ministry plans to lodge its strongest protest if Cambodian authorities file false and trumped-up charges against Siwarak, said Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to the foreign minister.

Cambodian authorities dismissed the consular request from Thai charge d'affaires Chalothorn Phaovibul to visit Siwarak in his prison cell on grounds that it was the weekend, he said.

In a telephone interview from Phnom Penh, Chalothorn said Siwarak was detained at a Phnom Penh prison.

Democrat Party spokesman Buranat Smutharaks said CTN, a Cambodian television station, had aired a news commentary on Thai-Cambodian relations that made inappropriate references to the Thai monarchy.

He called on Thai authorities to file a complaint in order to prevent a repeat of such an offence, which might lead to the escalation of tensions.

A new way to annoy a neighbour

The Economist
Monday , Nov 16, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Since last year, Cambodian and Thai troops have intermittently clashed over a disputed border temple. But now Cambodia has found a more elegant way to annoy its rival: appointing as economic adviser to the prime minister, Hun Sen, Thaksin Shinawatra, the former Thai premier who was ousted by a coup in 2006 and convicted in absentia of abusing his power. Thailand’s government wants Mr Thaksin in jail. Cambodia has refused to extradite him, arguing that his crime is political. Infuriated, Thailand last week withdrew its ambassador. Cambodia did the same. Thailand has torn up a joint maritime oil-exploration treaty. On November 15th, anti-Thaksin “yellow shirts”, who have stirred up trouble on the disputed border, plan to rally in Bangkok to protest against Cambodia’s decision to coddle their nemesis.

Speaking at his opulent government guesthouse in Phnom Penh, a stone’s throw from the Thai embassy, where extradition papers lie waiting, Mr Thaksin affects not to know what all the fuss is about. He says that giving sound advice to Cambodia will benefit Thailand’s larger economy and the whole region. He describes Hun Sen as a pal of 20 years who “dares to say the truth to the world” about his ill treatment. Actually, the two men have not always seen eye-to-eye. But both see themselves in a similar light, as bluff sons of the soil, surrounded by royalist enemies.