Friday, 20 November 2009

More Pictures: Blaze destroys more than 200 homes

Pictures by DAP News

Ecstasy factories destroyed in Cambodian rainforests

Friday, November 20, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

HNOM PENH, Nov. 20, 2009 (Xinhua News Agency) -- Ten ecstasy laboratories operated by local drug cartels were destroyed Wednesday in one of Cambodia's most impenetrable and remote jungle areas in the country's southwest Cardamom Mountains, according to a statement released Friday by Wildlife Alliance.

The raid was carried out by an anti-drug task force led by Wildlife Alliance and in close cooperation with forest rangers from Cambodia's armed services and Ministry of Environment.

"At least 35 tons of safrole oil, a main ingredient used in the methamphetamine production of ecstasy, could have been used to make over five million ecstasy pills with a street value of over 100 million U.S. dollars," according to local officials.

Wildlife Alliance-sponsored ranger team from Cambodia's Ministry of Environment and managed by Fauna and Flora International, came across the ecstasy labs several months ago during a routine foot patrol through Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary, 200 miles northwest of Phnom Penh.

Wildlife Alliance Technical Advisor and former French Legionnaire, Eduard Lefter, who planned the complex and dangerous raid with Cambodian Forest Rangers, commented on the operation, saying "The mission was very difficult to organize and the conditions extremely tough. The mountain terrain and dense forest made a helicopter insertion virtually impossible, so we went in by foot."

According to Lefter, the team spent 12 days in the jungle battling leeches and the resulting wound infections, as well as skirting landmines which made forward progress extremely difficult. By the end of the mission much of Lefter's ranger teams were suffering from dehydration from dwindling water supplies.

The teams also carried explosive ordnance in the form of landmines, provided by the Cambodian Military, to destroy the ecstasy labs and safrole distillation equipment.

(Source: iStockAnalyst )

Three Were Arrested for Preventing the Implementation of a Notification to Confiscate Land in Kompong Thom – Thursday, 19.11.2009

Posted on 20 November 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 639

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

“According to a news source, at least three disabled veterans, poor citizens, were arrested between 14 to 16 November 2009, when they resisted armed forces and police of the Kompong Thom authorities, coming to enforce a notification to confiscate land, where the authorities claimed that those citizens live there illegally, in Banteay Rou Ngieng village, Kraya commune, Santuk district, Kompong Thom.

“The source of this information claimed that there is an association with more than 1,700 families of disabled veterans, living there since 2004, and that the association lives on more than 10,000 hectares of land, where each family was provided with 3 hectares by the head of that community, for housing and for growing different crops, since 2005. But on 14 and 16 November 2009, about 50 armed forces and other authorities came with machinery to remove their houses, and they arrested three people.

“The disabled veterans said that the authorities burnt their houses, shot at them, and even arrested some people and hit them with riffle handles, in order to evict them to seize the land for the Tan Bieng company [a Vietnamese company].

“Responding to the accusation that the authorities ordered armed forces to burn their houses, shoot at them, and arrest people, the Kompong Thom deputy police chief, who had gone himself to conduct the eviction, Mr. Nou Thany, told Deum Ampil on 18 November 2009, via phone, ‘The accusation is not true. And if there is anything true in it, the authorities used only their right to self protection, because those disabled people used knives, sticks, and gasoline bottles to burn the machinery of the authorities and to chase them away and to hurt them with knives.’ He added that the action was taken following a notification to confiscate the land for the Tan Bieng company, which had received the right from the Royal Government to make some investment on that land. For evictions, the municipality has a policy to offer each of them a plot of land in the nearby Thma Samlieng area, but only somewhat more than 100 of them agreed to register to take this offer of land at the new location. The rest protested, rejecting this policy and they used force against the authorities who went to enforce the eviction order.

“Mr. Nou Thany emphasized that the disabled veterans association does have the right to create an association at that area, but not the right to control the land. Therefore, there was a notification, ordering them to leave. Before they would have to leave, the municipality had set the deadline of 25 November 2009 for them to accept new land; however, they turned to resist strongly on 14 to 17 November 2009.”

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #340, 19.11.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 19 November 2009

Thai-Cambodia JBC meeting next week

Published: 20/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Thai-Cambodia Joint Border Committee (JBC) will meet on Nov 27 at 28 at the Dusit Thani hotel in Pattaya, defence ministry spokesman Col Thanathip Saengsawang said on Friday.

“It will be a ministerial level defence meeting to discuss border security and military cooperation,” Col Thanathip said.

Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon would use his ties with Cambodian military leaders to help ease the current tension between the two countries.

The spokesman said that military relations between the two countries remain intact despite the diplomatic row between Bangkok and Phnom Penh.

The Defence Ministry hopes to help settle the dispute between the two governments and at the same time to strengthen ties and trust on both sides, Col Thanathip said.

Thai PM: Thai-Cambodian relationship now stable

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- The Thai-Cambodian relationship is currently stable and is not expected to deteriorate, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Friday.

Thailand and Cambodia have downgraded their diplomatic relations due to conflict over an appointment of Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic advisor to Cambodia's government and Prime Minister Hun Sen on Nov.4.

A day after the appointment of the ousted former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, 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.

"The Thai-Cambodian relationship is now stable," Thai News Agency quoted Abhisit as saying.

Also, both sides are ready to discuss as there will be a meeting of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC), said Abhisit.

The JBC meeting will be co-chaired by Thai Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan and Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh, he said.

Thaksin was ousted by the military coup in September 2006, in accusation of corruption, and has been kept 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: Xiong Tong

Cambodia discusses EU-funded projects on impact of climate change

November 20, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 19 — More than 100 people are gathering in Phnom Penh on Thursday to discuss the EU-funded projects on impact of climate change repercussions in rural Cambodia.

The statement released by the Delegation of the European Commission to Cambodia said the one-day forum is aimed at facilitating a debate on the current and potential future impact of the climate change in rural Cambodia.

The discussions touched around two themes: mitigation and adaptation.

The objective of the forum is to assess how the development activities funded by EU and its development partners could contribute to voluntary self-imposed mitigation and adaptation measures reducing the impact of the climate change on Cambodian rural poor.

This event is another initiative that the EU did in order to reach its commitment in assisting the most vulnerable countries, including Cambodia, to strengthen its capacity to be better prepared to the possible consequences of climate change, it added.

"The outcome of this workshop, will not only enable all the projects funded by the European Union and its partners to understand the important of climate change in the daily life of Cambodian men and women, but also to learn important tools to be part of the solution by mainstreaming climate change issues into their activities," said Rafael Dochao Moreno, Charg d' Affaires of Delegation of the European Commission to Cambodia.

As one of the world leaders in battling against climate change, the European Council on Oct. 30 committed the EU and Member States to contribute a fair share of the estimated 22-50 billion euro in additional international public finance that developing countries will need annually by 2020 under an ambitious agreement.

"It is encouraging to see that the EU is among the first ones to put a very tangible and meaningful proposal on the table to increase financial assistance to help developing countries combat climate change and to cut Green House Gas emissions," Mok Maret, environment minister said at the workshop.

"The Cambodian government is committed to fulfilling its mandate to address climate change," Mok said, adding that "I am very pleased to see that Cambodia has been selected to be a pilot country of the EU initiative "Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA)." (PNA/Xinhua)

THAI-CAMBODIA ROW : Thaksin must resign to end all problems : Suthep

Fri, November 20, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

By The Nation

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thuagsuban said Thaksin's role as an adviser has already jeopardise the mutual ties and now the Thai business in Cambodia.

"I'm not asking Khun Thaksin to resign. I believe he must resign to end all conflicts. Or Cambodia revokes his appointment. That will help end the mutual row," Suthep told reporters.

"The diplomatic ties will improve after Thaksin quits his advisory role," Suthep said.

He said he appreciated the gesture by Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh for stepping out to deny condoning the wire-tapping.

"I thank Tea Banh for clarifying the issue, otherwise the international community will remain suspicious of Cambodia," he said.

Tea Banh ruled out on Thursday the eavesdropping and the existence of the taped telephone conversation purported to implicate Thai engineer Siwarak Chotipong for spying in Phnom Penh.

Thai government linked Thaksin to the arrest of a Thai engineer of Cambodia Air Traffic Control Services (Cats) for allegedly spying flight plans of Thaksin and Cambodia's PM Hun Sen.

Cambodia has taken control of Cats, and ordered Thai staffs not to come to work.

Suthep insisted all the problems are the works of Thaksin and his men whose only intentions are to get Thaksin's money back and that Thaksin would not have to serve two-year jail term.

Tea Banh: There is no secret tape

Published: 20/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Cambodian government has no secret audio recording of Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya ordering an official of Thai embassy in Phnom Penh to obtain the flight schedule of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, as claimed by a Puea Thai MP, Cambodian deputy prime minister and defence minister Gen Tea Banh, asserted on Friday.

“I think the person who exposed this case has an ill-intention or a hidden agenda. The person might want to incite war between the two countries and then put the blame on Cambodia,” Gen Tea Banh said in an interview published in the Thai-language Kom Chad Luek newspaper

The Cambodian defence minister said that military relations between Thailand and Cambodia remain intact.

He refused to comment on the arrest of Sivarak Chutiphong, a Thai employed by Cambodia Air Traffic Services who has been charged with spying. He said the case is still being investigated according to Cambodian legal procedure.

Puea Thai MP Jatuporn Prompan on Wednesday claimed that the Cambodian government had a recording of Mr Kasit instructing the Thai first secretary at the embassy to obtain Thaksin's flight plan. He did not say how he knew this.

Mr Kasit yesterday denied he had given such an order and challenged Mr Jatuporn to produce the secret tape.

Missionary to speak on Khmer Rouge experiences

Dareth Ly and his wife, Thida, are Assembly of God missionaries to their native Cambodia. From left are Dareth, Thida, Sophie, 15, Sabrina, 11, and Saidah, 4. Dareth will speak at Crossroads Church Sunday, Nov. 22. Submitted Photo

Dareth Ly spent his childhood in Cambodia under the deadly 1975-1979 rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.

By: Molly Miron, Bemidji Pioneer

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Dareth Ly spent his childhood in Cambodia under the deadly 1975-1979 rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.

His father was among the 1.5 to 2.5 million people who died directly on the Killings Fields or from starvation and disease.

His mother survived, but they were separated when he was 7 in 1975. He was sent to a child labor camp, and she was sent to an adult labor camp.

When the Vietnamese army liberated the camps in 1979, he walked to Thailand and was put in a refugee camp.

“They didn’t know what to do with us, so they asked different countries to take us,” Ly said in a telephone interview from his Eagan, Minn., home.

He was sent to St. Paul when he was 11 and grew up in a foster home.

“I didn’t speak a word of English,” he said.

He said he had no idea where he was going at the time, but he knew it had to be better than where he was.

Now, with his wife, Thida, he is an Assembly of God missionary to Cambodia. Ly will be the featured speaker Sunday, Nov. 22, at Crossroads Church. Ly will share his story during both the morning worship service at 10:30 a.m. and the Missions Banquet at 5:30 p.m. The Missions Banquet will also feature a potluck, ethnic dinner and a question-and-answer time with Ly. Crossroads Pastor John Hubert and the congregation invite the public to attend.

Ly said he returned to Cambodia and found his mother in 1992. He said she is still living in her home country. He then returned to Cambodia as a missionary in 1996 and began working in an orphanage and starting churches and schools in rural Cambodia. He and his wife have built schools, provided school meals for students, as well as school supplies and uniforms.

“We basically go back and offer the people in that country – who have suffered so much – hope,” Ly said.

He said the Assembly of God as a denomination focuses on mission outreach and is a fast-growing church worldwide. He said he and his wife and daughters, Thida, Saidah and Sabrina, plan to return to Cambodia next summer. Meanwhile, he travels to churches to present the message of what God is doing and raise funds for the mission.

Thai factory worker kills Cambodian colleague with an axe

Asia-Pacific News
Nov 20, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Bangkok - A Thai labourer allegedly killed a Cambodian co-worker with an axe early Friday after a heated and inebriated argument over the two countries' deteriorating diplomatic relations, police said.

Thai national Sinchai Namnon, 44, was the chief suspect in the slaying of Cambodian national Dieng, 40, who died shortly after midnight from a gash in the head and a nearly severed arm. Both injuries were inflicted with an axe.

The two men were employees at the Srimaharacha rubber processing company in Sri Racha, Chonburi province, 60 kilometres south-east of Bangkok.

'They were drinking together and got in an argument about the Thai engineer who was arrested on spying charges in Cambodia last week,' Police Lieutenant Colonel Praphan Wangkanom said.

Sinchai had fled the scene by the time police arrived.

'We are still investigating whether there were others involved in the attack,' Praphan told the German Press Agency dpa.

Thai engineer Sivarak Chutipong, an employee of the Cambodian Air Traffic Service (CATS), was arrested in in Phnom Penh on November 11.

The Cambodian government has accused Sivarak of passing on confidential information to the Thai embassy about the arrival of fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on November 10.

Sivarak's arrest was part of an escalating spat between the two neighbouring countries, triggered by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's decision to name Thaksin his personal adviser.

Thaksin, who was toppled in a 2006 coup, faces a two-year jail term in Thailand on an abuse-of-power charge and is the main political antagonist of the current Thai government.

Thailand recalled its ambassador from Phnom Penh following the official announcement of Thaksin's appointment and called for a review of all aid and economic agreements with Cambodia.

Cambodia also recalled its ambassador and expelled Thailand's second secretary on charges of recruiting Sivarak.

The spat is likely to harm both countries' economies.

Cambodia is a major market for Thai exports, while Thailand is a major source of employment for Cambodian labourers.

According to a report released Friday by the International Organization for Migration, some 148,420 Cambodians had obtained permission for 'temporary stay' in Thailand as labourers as of early September.

Another 6,130 Cambodians have been granted work permits, allowing them to work in the country year round.

Cambodians account for about 10 per cent of the one million-plus migrants working legally in Thailand. Thousands more work illegally in the kingdom.

Gov´t Prohibits Thai Workers at CATS

Friday, 20 November 2009 03:03 administrator

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya insisted on Thursday that everything must be in line with the law after the Cambodian Government banned Thai nationals from working at Cambodian Air Traffic Services (CATS), which is operated by Thailand’s Samart Corporation, according to the Bangkok Post.

However, the claims that the Cambodian Government has prohibited Thai nationals from working at CATS could not be confirmed with Cambodian Government officials.

Both Foreign Affairs and Work and Vocational Training Ministry officials said that this decision is not made by their ministries but rather by the Secretary of the Civil Air Agency.

Mao Has Vananal, secretary of state for the Civil Aviation, could not be reached on Thursday after DAP News Cambodia tried many times to contact him. The Bangkok Post’s report comes after a Thai man was arrested and charged with spying by stealing fugitive former Thai PM Thaksin Sinawatra´s flight schedules during his 4-day trip to Cambodia on November 10, 2009.

“As for Thailand, we’ll have to wait for reports from the Thai Embassy to Phnom Pehn. We hope that we’ll receive factual information from Cambodia and[Smart] company,” Bangkok Post quoted his saying. “If the orders do not follow the bilateral agreement of the two countries, we’ll have to find other ways to continue.”

Kasit said Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had promised Siwarak’s mother that he will visit her detained son. He said the Government had to wait for Cambodia’s confirmation on the time of the meeting with the engineer, but the ministry had also hired a lawyer to discuss this problem with the company.

“There are no problems in the Thai-Cambodian relations,” he added.

Thai Justice Ministry planned to send its senior officials to visit Sivarak Chutopong next week. However, Koy Kuong, a spokesman for the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, told DAP News Cambodia that so far his ministry has yet to receive any formal letter, saying only that “We also got this from the news from Bangkok.”

Cambodian Government officials have already stated that Cambodia will not release an alleged Thai spy, Sivarak Chutipong, 31, despite the Thai Government’s appeals. The Cambodian Government said the case is being investigated by the Phnom Penh Court. The man could have passed Thaksin’s flight schedule to the first secretary at Thai embassy in Phnom Penh and forwardedit to army and Thai Government.

A day after Sivarak Chutipong’s arrest,the Thai Embassy first secretary was
expelled from Cambodia by Foreign Affair Ministry.

Cambodia Confirms 444th Case of A/H1N1, 4 Deaths

Friday, 20 November 2009 03:01 administrator .

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

There have been 50 new reported cases of A/H1N1, commonly known as swine flu, this week, bringing the total to 444 cases, but with only 4 deaths, a Health Ministry official said on Thursday.

“Cambodia on Thursday confirmed 444 cases of A/H1N1, but the number of deaths is still the same as before,” Ly Sovan, deputy director of the Anti-Communicable Disease Department, told DAP News Cambodia.

The Health Ministry confirmed the first case of the A/H1N1 virus in Cambodia on June 24 after an American student from a group, which arrived in Cambodia June 19, tested positive for the disease.

The Cambodian Ministry of Health, in cooperation with World Health Organization (WHO), is striving to control the A/H1N1 situation, working to curb the spread of the virus and keeping the
public well informed with updates. Mam Bunheng, the Health Minister, said that A/H1N1 vaccine will be in Cambodia at the end of this month or at the beginning of December.

Due to the Health official, 300,000 doses of A/H1N1 vaccine will be delivered to Cambodia.

“The priority people to be given for the vaccine are the government leaders, the ministry officials, children aged from 6 month to 2 years, and those who are containing with long term diseases,” Mam Bunheng told reporters on Thursday at Cambodiana Hotel. At least 6,071 people worldwide have been killed by the A/H1N1 influenza as infections continue to increase quickly in the northern hemisphere, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a latest update on Friday last week, according to Xinhua.

Of the deaths, 4,399 occurred in the Americas, 661 occurred in South-East Asia and 498 occurred in the West Pacific. The other three WHO regions, Europe, East Mediterranean and Africa reported 300,137 and 76 deaths respectively, Xinhua added.

Bhutan, Cambodia Share Experience on Trade Strategy

Friday, 20 November 2009 03:00 administrator .

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Cambodia is sharing the experience about trade strategies with Bhutan partner as Cambodia, like Bhutan officially a least developed country (LDC), has already joined the WTO and with
Bhutan now a likely candidate for WTO membership, a Cambodian trade official said on Thursday.

"We told them about the benefit of the aid for development on trade unit and we also have got the aid from other partners to help private side and public in the purpose to strengthen our ability on trade and produce the goods for export to international markets," Pan Sorasak, secretary of state for Commerce Ministry told reporters at a meeting at the Cambodiana Hotel.

"We also got 'aid for trade'- that is very important for us and for you [Bhutan] to join to develop our country and help reduce poverty and seek jobs for local people, increased skills for people and produce more products for export," he noted. "Even though Bhutan and Cambodia is two kingdoms in Asia but we do not have large bilateral trade.

I do not know what kind of ways and trade that we could help to boost trade with each other but we could share experience for trade."

Government officials from the Ministry of Commerce, with support from UNDP, will host the workshop for the Bhutanese delegation to share information on Cambodia's experience in trade mainstreaming, and how Integrated Framework (IF) and EIF funds and technical support have been instrumental in pushing for the country's domestic reforms, a press release from the meeting said.

As an LDC, Bhutan is a candidate for accession to the World Trade Organization. Recently, Bhutan has applied to the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) fund, a multi-donor initiative aimed at supporting LDCs in mainstreaming trade development into their country's national development plans to support poverty reduction. Bhutan is now preparing to develop their DTIS.
The Government of Bhutan has turned to Cambodia to learn more about its successful EIF implementation, subsequent reforms, government commitment and ownership of Trade SWAp.

InCambodia, the Government is taking the lead in establishing and formulating the Trade SWAp, or Sector-Wide approach, as a framework to implement Cambodia's trade strategy in partnership with Development Partners and the private sector.

Cambodia has been at the forefront among other LDCs to secure funds from the IF program. Cambodia was one of the first LDCs to produce (in 2002) and update (in 2007) its Trade Development Strategy DTIS and to successfully gain access to EIF Tier 1 funding, which serves to address capacity and organizational needs to support mainstream trade development into their national development agenda.

A hill tribe welcome

Photo by: Photo Supplied

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 20 November 2009 15:02 Post Staff

Dei Ey village, in Mondulkiri Protected Forest, opened the doors of a new eco-resort on Thursday. The project, sponsored by the conservation group WWF, is the first of its kind in Cambodia, promoting ecotourism as a sustainable livelihood in fragile natural habitats.

Blaze destroys more than 200 homes

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Hundreds of Cham Muslims were left homeless on Thursday morning when a fire tore through a crowded neighbourhood in Phnom Penh, incinerating more than 200 homes and causing ammunition in a police station to explode. Despite the intensity of the inferno, no one was killed.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)
Friday, 20 November 2009 15:04 Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Kim Yuthana

IT was a scene of destruction Thursday morning as a raging fire set light to more than 200 homes in Russey Keo’s Chraing Chamres II commune and left even the local police station and commune hall destroyed.

The morning saw residents frantically trying to salvage what possessions they could from the roaring blaze.

“Help my home! Help my home!” Samrith Sary cried as fire trucks, sirens wailing, pulled into the street. She ran back and forth on the road, lugging plastic containers filled with water and throwing the liquid on the walls of her burning home.

As the fire continued to spread, loud explosions could be heard from inside the burning police station as bullets and ammunition ignited.

Elsewhere along National Road 5, parents called out to their children while police officers stopped trucks hauling canisters of oil and gas from driving past.

The village’s densely packed houses hindered police and fire crews, who were left with only one metre of manoeuvring room in some parts.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Neighbourhood residents wash the soot from their hair and faces after Thursday’s blaze.

Officials bulldozed some burning homes to allow fire trucks to enter, Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said.

By Thursday evening, officials counted 229 homes torched by the fire.

No one was injured, commune Chief Vann Thorn said.

Officials said they did not know what started the blaze.

However, one eyewitness said she saw the first signs of smoke and fire coming from the home of the local medicine seller.

“There was a burning smell,” said Ly Mary, whose house was also ravaged by the blaze.

“I walked to the window. Suddenly, I saw the smoke and fire flow out from his house. After that, the fire spread to other houses,” Ly Mary said.

Govt seizes Thai airport firm

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 20 November 2009 15:04 Cheang Sokha and James O’toole

THE government took control of the Thai-owned aviation firm Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS) on Thursday and banned its Thai employees from the offices after the arrest of one of their co-workers on suspicion of stealing the flight schedule of fugitive Thai former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra during his visit to Cambodia last week.

The move, which is likely to further damage diplomatic relations between the two countries, comes amid accusations by a Thai opposition leader that Thailand’s foreign minister ordered the theft.

CATS is a fully owned subsidiary of Bangkok-based Samart corporation, which has a 32-year air traffic control concession and employs nine Thai nationals in Cambodia.

It has been placed under the caretakership of a Cambodian government official, though representatives from the Civil Aviation Authority declined to comment on the official’s identity or the duration of the caretakership.

“The caretaker has prohibited the Thai expatriates from performing their duties,” Samart vice chairman Sirichai Rasameechan said in a letter to Thailand’s stock exchange, where the company is listed.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Cambodia’s takeover of CATS was “temporary” but necessary “to ensure national security and public safety.” The financial operations of the company, he added, would not be affected.

The move follows last week’s arrest of CATS employee Siwarak Chotipong, a 31-year-old Thai accused of spying, who is currently being held in pretrial detention at Prey Sar prison.

Thaksin is not the prime minister of cambodia – he is a convicted man....

Cambodian officials say that Siwarak was ordered to steal the flight schedule by Kamrob Palawatwichai, the first secretary of the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh. Kamrob was expelled last week, and Thailand responded by expelling the first secretary of the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok.

Both countries had already withdrawn their respective ambassadors in the row over Thaksin’s appointment as government economics adviser.

Siwarak 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, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

Kav Soupha, Siwarak’s defence attorney, said Thursday that he did not believe that the leaking of Thaksin’s flight schedule constituted a threat to Cambodia’s national security.

“Thaksin is not the prime minister of Cambodia – he is a convicted man who is being hunted by Thai authorities,” Kav Soupha said. “Even if [Siwarak] had reported to the Thai embassy, that would be according to his right and obligation as a Thai citizen to alert authorities about a fugitive.”

Kav Soupha added that he planned to request that Siwarak be released on bail.

Jatuporn Prompan, a parliamentarian from the opposition Puea Thai party, said Wednesday that he had an audio tape of Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya ordering the flight schedule theft of which Siwarak is accused, the Bangkok Post reported.

Thai Foreign Ministry deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi, however, said officials in his ministry “do not believe in the existence of such a tape”.

Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said he had no knowledge of such evidence.

Kasit said Thailand would have to gather further information about the CATS takeover before formulating a response.

“The ministry is waiting for reports from the Thai embassy and we will also have to get clarification from the Cambodian government. If it violates bilateral agreements, then we will find ways to proceed from there,” the Bangkok Post quoted Kasit as saying.

Secrecy ordered
As tensions between Thailand and Cambodia simmered, the government released a directive on Wednesday in which the Ministry of Interior called on all government officials to encrypt their communications to “protect information related to national security”.

The statement, signed by Interior Minister Sar Kheng on October 15, touted, without specifically describing, newly acquired encryption technology that will “guarantee secrecy, so that government information will not be leaked”.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said such measures were necessary in Cambodia’s present diplomatic circumstances.

“If Thaksin would have been arrested because of [Siwarak] leaking information about him, that would prove we could not keep sensitive information a secret.”


Evictees could face hunger as aid falls off

Photo by: Sovan Philong
A man lies on a mat in his makeshift home in Tuol Sambo earlier this year.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 20 November 2009 15:04 Robbie Corey-Boulet and Mom Kunthear

THE United Nations and other organisations expressed renewed concern about access to food for the 40 HIV-affected families living at a relocation site in Dangkor district, and some said they fear standard food packages will be cut off after a three-month commitment from the World Food Programme concludes in January.

“In the current absence of secure livelihoods and therefore of income flows, access to more than the minimum food package (rice, salt, oil) is crucial,” reads a UNAIDS summary of a November 9 visit to Tuol Sambo, a copy of which was obtained Thursday.

The WFP began distributing standard food packages containing 30 kilograms of rice, 1 litre of vegetable oil and 1.5 kilograms of iodised salt on October 20. To supplement that, the NGO Caritas Cambodia is scheduled to begin its own three-month programme of food packages including sugar, fish, fish sauce and instant noodles on December 1.

But the president of an NGO involved in food distribution at the site said Thursday he was worried that only “10 or 15” families would be in a position to receive food after the three-month WFP commitment ends, adding that he hopes the WFP will commit to another year of food packages.

“I am worried that the WFP will not continue its help, and then we will meet with a big problem because we do not have enough support to help those families with HIV/AIDS,” said Chea Sarith, president of the Women’s Organisation for Modern Economy and Nursing (WOMEN).

His fears were matched by Mey Sovannara, communications and advocacy officer for the HIV/AIDS NGO Khana, which has also been involved in food distribution.

“If the World Food Programme no longer provides support, Khana will not have money to allocate food to them,” Mey Sovannara said, though he added that the NGO might be able to assist “some vulnerable children in Tuol Sambo who face food insecurity”.

Officials at the WFP country office could not be reached Thursday. UNAIDS Country Director Tony Lisle said discussions were ongoing about extending the WFP commitment, and he expressed confidence that families unable to support themselves would continue to receive food.

“I categorically guarantee that we will make sure that there’s no discontinuity in food,” he said.

Residents and rights workers, meanwhile, said access to food was a chief concern.

“The most difficult problem we are facing is the lack of food,” said 41-year-old Tuol Sambo resident Soun Davy. “It was better for my family before we moved to live in Tuol Sambo, because I had a job there and could earn money to buy rice.”

The HIV-affected families were relocated to Tuol Sambo over the summer in a move that was roundly condemned by rights groups.

Am Sam Ath, technical superviser for the rights group Licadho, said many of the families he had interviewed were short on food, adding that their new location some 17 kilometres outside the capital afforded them fewer scavenging options.

“It’s not the same for them now like in the city, when they could collect rubbish and take the money to buy food,” he said.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun declined to answer questions Thursday about the food situation at Tuol Sambo.

Some progress made
The UNAIDS site report highlights some progress at Tuol Sambo, noting in particular that residents have “satisfactory access” to health services and antiretroviral therapy, and that “access to water was not considered an issue”. The report also refers to “commendable” efforts by Caritas to involve 39 families in “income-generation opportunities”, mainly in construction, sewing and tailoring.

Though the report states that subsidised electricy was shut off on November 6, residents said Thursday that it had been restored.

Plans are also in the works to upgrade the housing stock and to further integrate the HIV-affected families with families living in a nearby riverside community.

In addition, Lisle said Thursday that Tia Phalla, deputy director of the National AIDS Authority, had told Prasada Rao, Asia and Pacific regional director for UNAIDS, in a meeting this week that the eviction of Borei Keila families to Tuol Sambo had been “a mistake, and that this would not be the way they would proceed in the future”.

Villagers call for PM to grant farmland

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 20 November 2009 15:04 May Titthara and Tep Nimol

ABOUT 40 people who have fled to Phnom Penh to avoid arrest after recent land clashes in Oddar Meanchey province travelled to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence in Takhmao on Thursday to make a formal request for government intervention in their case.

Residents started fleeing to the city after authorities razed 214 homes in Oddar Meanchey’s Kounkriel commune in early October to clear 1,500 hectares of land for the construction of a sugar plantation by the Angkor Sugar Company, owned by CPP Senator Lee Yongphat.

“We sent a letter to the prime minister’s house because we want to ask him to provide us with a social land concession,” said villager Dit Saren, noting that the 30-metre-by-50-metre plots offered as compensation to villagers were too small to support their families.

Lim Leang Se, deputy chief of Hun Sen’s cabinet, said he had received a letter from the villagers and promised to forward it on to the National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes, promising that the issue would be investigated.

“We heard that the provincial authorities have settled their problems already, so they should accept compensation,” he said.

But Ton Nhorn, 72, said the 1-hectare plot was not enough to support the 10 members of his family, and that the government should reconsider its offers.

“If they don’t provide us with what we are suggesting, please give us about 3 hectares of farmland,” he said.

He said villagers had denied requests from Hun Sen’s cabinet to return to their home province, saying they fear arrest if they return.

KAMPONG Thom villagers go hungry

Photo by: Rann Reuy
San Siphan, 39, shows the facial injury he suffered during Monday’s clash with armed military police.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 20 November 2009 15:04 May Titthara

KAMPONG Thom villagers involved in a violent land dispute with a Vietnamese rubber company say they have been cut off from food and other supplies after an influx of police officers to the area.

“Today we are facing a shortage of food because our rice stores are nearly finished,” said villager Po Kin. “We cannot go out, and also the vendors cannot come in, so it is very difficult for us now.”

Santuk district police Chief Ek Mat Muoly vowed to ramp up the local police presence after an altercation Monday between villagers and armed officers stationed on the 8,000-hectare economic land concession, which was awarded to the company in 2007 in a move that has been criticised by the hundreds of families already living there.

Villagers burned four vehicles owned by the company before the officers turned on them with knives, hatchets and canes, rights workers said.

Prom Saroth, one of the nine men who were injured, also complained of a food shortage on Thursday, adding that villagers were reluctant to leave because they feared retaliatory harassment from the officers.

“This morning, the police came into the village and opened fire into the sky, and then they shot two of our chickens and took them back to their place,” he said. Ek Mat Muoly denied that the incident had taken place.

Po Kin said residents’ fears had been exacerbated by the arrest on Wednesday of three men accused of inciting villagers to burn the excavator trucks. “Nobody dares to go out because yesterday three villagers took a moto to go buy food, and they were arrested when they left the village,” he said.

“We don’t know why they have not been released yet, and we heard they had been sent to the provincial police department for questioning.”

Ek Mat Muoly said the provincial court had issued arrest warrants for the men, identified by villagers as Heng Han, 66, Toy Sokhorn, 50, and Nai Kep, 21.

“The situation now is still tense, and we must spread our police to protect the company’s property because they come from their country to invest in our country,” he said.

Kampong Thom Governor Chhun Chhorn said Wednesday that 20 warrants had been issued in connection to the altercation.

Chan Soveth, a monitor for the rights group Adhoc, said he had urged the authorities to grant the villagers freedom of movement.

“It is difficult for them when they can’t go outside and people can’t come inside, and they are facing a lack of food,” he said.

Ek Mat Muoly said police officers would “only arrest the leaders who encouraged people to burn company and military police property.... Normal people will not be arrested”.

Provincial prosecutor Pen Sarath said the three arrested men had not been sent to the court as of Thursday afternoon.

Few leads in Swede’s murder

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 20 November 2009 15:03 Chrann Chamroeun

SEVERAL men have been questioned in connection with last week’s beating death of Swedish national Jan Ola Jordansson, police said Thursday, adding that authorities are now looking for more than one killer.

Jordansson, 45, disappeared from the Hotel Scandinavia last week and was found dead in Kandal province on Saturday.

A man who checked into the same hotel left a Nigerian passport when he skipped his bill.

“We’ve had some positive signs in the hunt for the killers but we cannot say yet who the suspects are,” said Mok Chito, head of the Interior Ministry’s Criminal Police Department, when asked whether police were looking for a Nigerian national.

“We cannot say yet whether the suspect is Nigerian.... All we have is video footage from the hotel,” Mok Chito said.

Anti-mine microbes?

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Akira, a former Khmer Rouge child soldier, prepares to defuse a mine using traditional – and risky – methods.

There's a lot of work to do before it could be used in the field.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 20 November 2009 15:03 Jacob Gold

BIOENGINEERED bacteria that glow green in the presence of explosives could someday give Cambodia a safer, cheaper way to detect land mines, Scottish researchers say.

The bacterium was Edinburgh University’s entry in the 2009 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, which challenges students to develop living inventions using a set of standard genetic “parts” known as BioBricks.

Dr Alistair Elfick, who led the team, explained: “The device uses E coli engineered to produce a sensing molecule and a reporting mechanism. The explosives detector has a … membrane receptor which binds volatile TNT molecules and … produces light.”

The bacteria, which could be modified for use with other explosives, is harmless to people and animals. Environmental impact is minimised, Elfick said, by the fact that cells “die after a few hours, as they are not robust enough to survive in the wild.”

It will be a while before the bacteria are released on Cambodian soil, however – researchers have tested it only “on a very small scale and within the lab”.

“There’s a lot of work to do before it could be used in the field,” Elfick noted.

Were the team’s bio-invention able to make the leap from workshop to wilderness, its presence would be welcome in Cambodia, where massive aerial bombing by the US and decades of civil war littered the country with land mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO), particularly along its eastern and western borders.

Roath Kanith, director of the training and R&D department at the Cambodia Mine Action Centre (CMAC), said that the metal detector, still the technological backbone of the country’s demining efforts, performed with suboptimal speed and efficiency. “This is old technology; it picks up any metal,” Roath Kanith said. “Based on a recent CMAC analysis, out of 513 detections, only one will uncover an anti-personnel mine. We waste a lot of time on false alarms.”

Teams of 25 traditional deminers – using brush cutters, metal detectors and dogs, and protected only by masks, helmets and blast vests — can clear up to 2,000 square metres of mined area per day. According to Cambodia’s deadline-extension request to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty (APMBT), 516 square kilometres of mines and UXO were cleared between 1992 and 2009. There are still 648.8 square kilometres to be cleared.

Sam Rainsy slams VN incursions

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 20 November 2009 15:03 Uong Ratana

PRIME Minister Hun Sen is currently playing a “dangerous game” with the Cambodian nation by understating the threat posed by Vietnamese territorial encroachments, opposition leader Sam Rainsy said.

In a self-styled “message to the Cambodian people” released on Thursday, the Sam Rainsy Party president said the government is playing up the threat posed by Thailand but ignoring problems on its eastern border.

Sam Rainsy said the potential loss of 5 square kilometres of land in disputes with Thailand was dwarfed by the loss of “thousands” of square kilometres to Vietnamese incursions.

“This is an ongoing painful process that Mr Hun Sen does not want us to look at,” he said.

The message came just days after the National Assembly stripped Sam Rainsy of his parliamentary immunity over an October 25 incident in which he helped uproot six wooden posts marking the border with Vietnam in Svay Rieng province.

Phay Siphan, spokesman of the Council of Ministers, dismissed the allegations, saying Sam Rainsy was speaking from emotion rather than fact.
“To the east, we do not have any problems,” he said.

BOAT DISASTER: Bodies recovered in Kandal

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 20 November 2009 15:03 Mom Kunthear and Tep Nimol


The bodies of a father and his three children who drowned after a boat carrying seven people capsized in Kandal province’s Lvea Em district on Wednesday morning have all been recovered. “The bodies of the victims are now in their family home and will be cremated tonight,” said Lvea Em district Governor Bun Pheng. “We always tell local residents to be careful when using a boat. This incident happened because they were careless while in strong winds.” The accident took place while the man and his family were returning home on a motor boat after visiting relatives. After the boat capsized, the victim’s wife, niece and brother, who were also on the boat, were rescued by villagers. Police and villagers were only able to retrieve the body of the daughter in the immediate aftermath. Later in the evening, the body of one of the sons was recovered. The bodies of the man and his remaining son were found on Thursday morning. Kandal provincial Governor Chhun Sirun expressed his regret over the accident, saying such accidents had “never before occurred in our province”.

Nation to get 300,000 A(H1N1) flu vaccines

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 20 November 2009 15:02 Khoun Leakhana

THE number of confirmed swine flu cases rose to 444 this week as the World Health Organisation announced Cambodia would receive 300,000 doses of (A)H1N1 flu vaccine by the end of November.

Ly Sovann, deputy director of the Communicable Diseases Control Department at the Ministry of Health, said that due to the limited amount of vaccines, they will be distributed to high-risk groups first.

He said priority will be given to health-care providers, followed by pregnant women and infants between the ages of 6 months and 2 years.

Health Minister Mam Bunheng explained Thursday that priority must be given to people who come into contact with the virus, commonly known as swine flu, on a daily basis.

“We are also concerned about others, but we have limited supplies, so we have to think about those who are high-risk first,” he said, acknowledging that 300,000 doses of vaccine were not enough for the entire country.

Individuals experiencing symptoms such as high fevers (above 38 C), coughing, headache, muscle ache, sore throat and nose congestion are advised to call the ministry’s swine flu hotline on 115, 012 488 981 or 089 669 567.

Temple tourism enjoys October recovery: govt

Photo by: Chris Kelly
Domestic tourists take a closer look at Preah Vihear Temple at the end of September. The disputed site recorded a nearly fourfold rise in arrivals last month, according to official data.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 20 November 2009 15:02 May Kunmakara

Latest figures show Siem Reap – home of Angkor Wat – and Preah Vihear saw higher tourism numbers despite tensions

TOURIST numbers to Cambodia’s two main temple destinations – Angkor Wat and Preah Vihear – grew last month, figures showed, a further sign that the sector was in recovery despite ongoing tensions with Thailand, officials said.

Total tourists to the Kingdom’s primary attraction Siem Reap climbed 0.7 percent in October year on year, Chheuy Chhorn, deputy director of Siem Reap’s Tourism Department, said Thursday, as a 2 percent drop in international arrivals to the province was offset by a 3 percent rise in domestic visitors. Overall numbers climbed to 174,814 visitors last month from 173,515 in October 2008.

“Tourists during this month were a good sign for the sector,” said Chheuy Chhorn, adding that since the start of this month – the start of the high season – numbers had again noticeably improved.

He said it remained unclear whether Siem Reap tourism would be able to match 2008, but given the figures for the first 10 months, it seemed unlikely – for the year up to the end of October numbers were down 36.88 percent following a dismal beginning to 2009.

Preah Vihear received 5,422 visitors last month, a huge increase on the 1,374 that made the trip to the temple site in October 2008, when a cross-border skirmish prompted a downturn in tourist numbers.

“Tourists increased during last month from the … year before due to a previous problem with Thailand that led to the closing of the border gate,” Kong Vibol, director of the Preah Vihear Province Tourism Department, said Thursday. “But tourism has hugely increased this year because we have a good road to the temple – we’re not relying on Thailand.”

Still, overall official figures showed tourism numbers to Preah Vihear are down substantially on 2008. In the first 10 months of this year 56.63 fewer tourists visited the temple, from 121,894 over the same period last year down to 52,861.

“We, like other tourist destinations in our country, were affected by the global economic crisis,” said Kong Vibol. “However, in my province, especially at Preah Vihear temple, we have seen a more pronounced negative impact as we face the border confrontation with neighbouring Thailand.”

The recent troubles with Thailand had not affected tourism at Preah Vihear, he added.

Seaside tourism mixed
Meanwhile, Cambodia’s two leading seaside resorts enjoyed mixed fortunes last month as Kampot province saw an increase in foreign visitors but a slide overall, and Sihanoukville recorded a large overall rise.

Mok Sekano, deputy director of Kampot Province Tourism Department, said Thursday that foreign tourist numbers climbed more than 35 percent last month year on year to 484 but domestic visitors plummeted 24 percent to 8,383.

He attributed the spike in foreign visitors to relaxed opening procedures for Bokor Mountain, which is being redeveloped, and said flood damage to a cable bridge at Teuk Chhou district had likely caused the fall in domestic tourists.

Overall for the first 10 months numbers to Kampot province slid 36.12 percent year on year.

Preah Sihanouk province had seen numbers fall just 4.22 percent over the same period, according to official figures.

In October, 16,513 tourists visited the province, up nearly 9 percent compared to the same month last year, an increase that came mainly from domestic visitors, whose numbers climbed from 8,967 in October 2008 to 10,578 last month.

Skin condition leaves local officials puzzled

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 20 November 2009 15:02 Tep Nimol and Khuon Leakhana

VILLAGERS in Kampong Speu and Kandal provinces have been attacked by a mysterious insect-borne skin condition that has stymied local health officials.

Ao Vanthen, director of the Kampong Speu Health Department, said Thursday that 70 families in Prey Kuy and Tuol Prich villages in the province’s Samraong district had broken out in strange spots and itches, originally assumed to be caused by insects.

“It is not a contagious disease. Spots come out and we become itchy immediately after we touch the insects,” he said.

Ly Svan, deputy director of the Ministry of Health’s Department of Infectious Diseases, said the ministry still did not know what kind of disease was assailing the villagers, but that authorities are investigating it.

He said that according to preliminary investigations, the disease was “not very serious”.

Ao Vanthen said recent swarms of flies might be behind the skin ailment, counseling villagers to wash and clean themselves often to avoid the rashes. He said health officials were in the process of treating those who have previously been affected by the unknown condition.

Opening of new airport delayed until 2010

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 20 November 2009 15:02 Nathan Green

THE official opening of Preah Sihanouk International Airport has been delayed until next year at the request of the French embassy, State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) Secretary of State Mao Havannal said Thursday.

The sole airport in the coastal resort city, which has been upgraded by airport operator Societe Concessionnaire des Aeroports (SCA), was due to be opened Thursday.

But Mao Havannal said he now expected the official opening to be held in March, adding that the airport was already fully operational and ready to handle flights as soon as there was demand.

He said he expected some chartered flights to begin operating by the end of this year or early next year.

“Cambodia Angkor Air may also offer some flights this year or early 2010 depending on demand,” he said.

Soy Sokhan, the SSCA undersecretary of state in charge of CAA, said last month that the airline would initially fly only chartered flights from Sihanoukville, though it was examining establishing regular routes between the resort and both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.

Preah Sihanouk International Airport was a notable absentee when the SCA published its winter season flight schedules last month for Cambodia’s airports.

SCA Chief Executive Officer Nicolas Deviller told the Post in March that the official launch of the airport was a matter for the government, which expected “to have French government officials present”.

SCA operates Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports, as well as Preah Sihanouk International Airport, which Deviller said is now fully operational.

A flexible Myanmar dialogue

Photo by: AFP
Earlier this year a woman passes a banner calling for the release of Myanmar opposition icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent most of the past 20 years in detention at the behest of the country’s ruling military junta.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 20 November 2009 15:02 Robert Taylor

US engagement with the nation may have laid groundwork for improved diplomacy, but the generals are still firmly in control.


THE two-hour summit meeting of US President Barrack Obama and the leaders of the 10 member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations held on Sunday, at the end of the APEC meeting in Singapore, stimulated much idle speculation about possible future political developments in Myanmar. This was because the hyped meeting was the first encounter between a senior Burmese government official, Prime Minister Thein Sein, and a US president since Lyndon Johnson welcomed General Ne Win to the White House in 1966. Then, in the midst of the Cold War, neutralist Burma was hailed as a cheap but effective bulwark against Chinese communist expansion into Southeast Asia. When the Cold War ended, and the containment of communism ceased to be the centre of American foreign policy, Myanmar soon became a favoured whipping boy for the Clinton and Bush administrations, ultimately obscuring larger issues at stake in US-Asian relations.

President Obama is taking a different tack. Whether the administration in Washington really expects the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) military government in Naypyidaw to heed its insistent strictures regarding the release from house arrest of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other opponents of the regime, or reopen negotiations on the political future of the country prior to elections slated for next year, is unclear. They would be naive if they expected much from sending two top state department officials for two days of talks in Yangon and Naypyidaw or to dangle economic rewards in front of the generals who have governed Myanmar for the past 20 years, accepting no foreign advice and precious little foreign economic assistance. Whatever else the Americans are currently doing, in statements to the effect that they are establishing no conditions on a dialogue with the SPDC they are positioning themselves to be able to improve relations with Myanmar after elections in 2010 create a new government with a civilian face. The European Union member states will doubtless probably soon be playing catch-up.

The ASEAN-US summit provided President Obama an opportunity to reiterate his call for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. This call was made in his first speech on his initial Asian sojourn the day before. Having twice called for the end of her home detention, once in the hearing of Prime Minister Thein Sein, he fulfilled a political obligation to her supporters and his critics back in Washington. However, the American willingness to see the issuing of a summit final communique that made no mention of political prisoners but merely called for the 2010 elections to be fair and inclusive, demonstrated a degree of diplomatic flexibility that the former Bush administration was unable to display. The return of the Americans to the ASEAN meeting shows both a measure of respect for regional sensitivities and a realistic perception of what American power can and cannot achieve in Asia.

Back in Myanmar, the issuance of a letter from Suu Kyi to SPDC Chairman Senior General Than Shwe, written on November 11 to request a meeting to discuss cooperation in the future, with the background of the US flurry of interest, prompted even more speculation. Her presumption to approach the head of state as an equal, when all previous talks between her and senior government officials since 1988 have failed, suggests this effort will probably be ignored. Her unwillingness to address the conditions set down by the government for a meeting with the senior general in October 2007 – that she agree to renounce her policy of resisting all authority, her call for utter devastation and her previous requests that Western governments impose economic sanctions – will probably guarantee no response to her letter. The dead letter box will once more be opened.

The SPDC laid down its seven-step road map to the establishment of new political order in 2003. It has been following that plan slowly but steadily ever since, having achieved the ratification of a new constitution by a miraculous public referendum in May last year. The next step in the road map will be the holding of elections, followed by the convening of a legislature and the formation of a new government. Demands by the NLD and their supporters to reopen issues foreclosed by the ratification of the new constitution will continue to be ignored. The government is taking the final steps to prepare for the elections next year. The completion of the process of turning former insurgent armed foes into border security forces under the auspices of the national army is now under way. This is a crucial step to ensuring domestic peace and stability under the new order.

The issuance of a new election law, which will determine the conditions under which political parties can be organised and rules by which they will be allowed to campaign, is still awaited. Until that document is promulgated, most expected political life to be put on hold. Inside the country, people interested in politics are expectant of some modest change after the elections in 2010.

They do not expect a revolution, nor a sudden revision of the constitution to address those aspects of it to which democratic purists strongly object.

The Myanmar army has created for itself a constitutional order that will preserve peace and stability in such a way as it believes history has proved is essential. This may be a self-serving reading of history, but no less real for that.

The SPDC is not going to give up what it has planned for itself and its country for unknown and untried promises of cooperation with foes of 20 years’ standing, with whom previous attempts at dialogued proved to be fruitless.
Robert Taylor is a former research associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and author of Burma: Political Economy under Military Rule.