Sunday, 29 November 2009

Thaksin willing to help jailed engineer

Published: 29/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is willing to help the detained Thai engineer in Cambodia if the Thai government could not help him, Thaksin's legal adviser Noppadon Pattama said on Sunday.

Sivarak Chutipong, an employee of Thai-owned Cambodia Air Traffic Services, was arrested on Nov 12 on charges of leaking information concerning the flight plan of Thaksin Shinawatra as he visited Phnom Pehn.

"Thaksin is willing to ask the Cambodian court for mercy for Sivarak if he is found guilty," former foreign minister Noppadon said.

He said Thaksin is still in Dubai.

Thaksin's activities had affected the government's stability and the image of Thailand to the eyes of foreign countries was less positive, he said.

"On the idea of having a mediator for the negotiation between Thaksin and the government, Thaksin is not sure about the government's sincerity," he said.

Shock Khmer Rouge plea highlights political battle

Two million people were executed or died of starvation under the Khmer Rouge

A bid for release by prison chief Kaing Guek Eav has underscored deep rifts between foreign and Cambodian staff

By Didier Lauras (AFP)

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH — A last-minute bid for release by Khmer Rouge jail chief Duch has underscored deep rifts between foreign and Cambodian staff that threaten the UN-backed court, officials and diplomats said.

Duch's defence strategy imploded on the final day of his trial Friday, when he suddenly demanded his release after months of admitting responsibility. Then his international and local lawyers put forward opposing arguments.

French counsel Francois Roux asked judges to consider Duch's remorse in a bid to reduce a possible 40-year sentence. But his Cambodian colleague Kar Savuth said the court was not competent to hold the trial.

"There are, in Cambodia, a number of people who do not want this court," Roux told AFP, hinting that the strategy of his colleague, the lawyer of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, was motivated by political objectives.

The same criticism has been heard from prosecutors, judges and diplomats since the tribunal was created in 2006 as a final chance for justice for victims of the communist regime that killed up to two million people in the late 1970s.

Cambodian and international prosecutors have openly disagreed whether the court should pursue more suspects, while the Cambodian investigating judge has refused to summon high-ranking government officials as witnesses.

Hun Sen himself said in March that he would "prefer for this court to fail" than see further prosecutions that could stoke civil strife.

Asked recently about the possibility of opening further cases, a senior government official told AFP: "These are decisions taken by people who understand nothing about Cambodia."

The disharmony predated the court's creation, recalls David Scheffer, a former US ambassador who took part in the lengthy negotiations to set up the tribunal.

"This is what's unique about it. But that does not mean it is not workable. We just need to accept that there is a certain amount of discord," Scheffer said.

The issues run deep. How many former Khmer Rouge cadres should be brought to trial? Who should the witnesses be?

And how to attribute blame when several senior regime members are back in positions of influence -- not least Hun Sen, who defected in 1977 to join Vietnamese-backed anti-Khmer Rouge forces?

"The former Khmer Rouge people are not only in the jungle. They are in power now," said Thun Saray, the head of ADHOC, a Cambodian human rights organisation.

Unlike other international tribunals, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia functions under local laws, with the United Nations playing only a supporting role.

"The UN are invited here, we have a very weak mandate," said Knut Rosandhaug, the court's deputy director for administration.

"We have a parallel structure with a dual management. There are two bosses in each and every office," the Norwegian said.

"This is OK if the two brains think the same but if they don't, it can get sometimes complicated to make it work."

The 67-year-old Duch -- a former mathematics teacher whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav -- is accused of overseeing the deaths of 15,000 people at a notorious torture centre. He is set to be sentenced by March 2010.

In its second case, the court is due to deal with four detained senior Khmer Rouge leaders including the regime's "Brother Number Two", Nuon Chea. All protest their innocence and their lawyers are gearing up to fight hard.

More than ever, said Scheffer, it is the Cambodians who are in control.

"It's up to the Cambodian society to decide who to reach beyond these (five) people," he said, referring to Duch and the other four facing trial.

Further cases involving five other suspects who are under preliminary investigation have barely begun.

Kar Savuth told the court last week that "only the senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime and those most responsible would be brought to trial".

He then reeled off a list of 14 people, 11 of whom are dead.

ASIA: Artists Join Forces to Make a Difference in Mekong

By Chris Mony - Newsmekong*

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Nov 29 (IPS) - Nouv Srey Leab, 24, could not quite contain her excitement about the chance to participate in the just concluded regional arts and media festival held in this capital, believing it was one welcome occasion meet fellow artists from other countries in the Mekong sub-region.

"I felt very excited," she said of the opportunity "to meet (other) young artists from the region" as one of the Cambodian artists who took part in the Mekong Arts and Media Festival 2009, which was held on Nov. 23-27.

The festival was co-organised by the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) under the PETA-Mekong Partnership Program, which was launched in 2004 to showcase alternative forms of creative expression as tools for advocacy and development work within the region. Other organisers were Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), Save the Children in Britain and the Center for Community Health Research and Development.

Themed around ‘Breaking Barriers, Converging Arts’, the gathering brought together some 200 representatives from the performing arts, mass media and development work from Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Laos and Burma. Aside from various performances from the participating countries, the range of activities during the five-day event also included workshops, fora, exhibits and film showings, all of which provided a much-needed platform to share knowledge and experiences in a region of diverse cultures, history and peoples.

Mekong is a sub-region within South-east Asia of breathtaking landscapes and vast natural resources yet faced with widespread poverty, as evidenced by increasing income disparities. Other major issues confronting it are marginalisation of ethnic minorities and environmental degradation. It is considered one of the areas most vulnerable to climate change across the globe.

At the festival artists from the Philippines, Japan, Singapore and Indonesia also graced the event to share their thoughts and experiences during the series of exchanges among the participants on the challenges and opportunities for advocacy and development work in Mekong.

"Art is important in advocacy work because it can reach many audiences, many people," said festival co-director Lea Espallardo in an interview with IPS. In her opening remarks, she described the festival as "a convergence of people, cultures and visions for a better society."

Part of the festival’s advocacy is to call attention to issues confronting the Mekong children, who are faced, among others, with the constant risk of injury or death from the explosive remnants of war in Mekong’s conflict- ravaged areas. In Cambodia, for instance, between four and six million landmines were laid during the country's three decades of civil war.

Nouv Srey Leab, who has been involved in the perfoming arts for almost a decade, said as an artist she has tried to convey the message that landmines could maim and kill, urging parents and children to be careful lest they end up becoming victims themselves.

She expressed belief that young artists like her have the power to influence other youth by conveying through creative means messages that can have a positive impact on their lives. She has not looked back since she decided to train under Cambodia’s leading art school, PPS (whose name means ‘the brightness of art’), at the age of 15, when she was forced to quit school because her mother could no longer afford to support her education.

One of the highlights of the festival was a children and youth bloc, where the range of activities ran alongside the main festival events. The bloc gave the young festival participants a venue for creative expressions as they tackled some of the complex issues confronting them, including various forms of exploitation such as trafficking.

"I think children artists are the most active and dynamic group partners. It would be good if you were doing something for children, if they saw their peers talking about their own lives or what they want and what they dream about," said Espallardo.

Khoun Det, one of the founders of PPS, admitted that his non-profit institution is still far behind similar organisations in other countries, because of Cambodia’s decades-old civil war whose remnants still litter the country’s landscape in the form of unexploded ordnance and unburied landmines. But what he has learned traveling to other countries he has tried to meld into Cambodia’s traditional art "to help nurture the children here."

What he through PPS has been able to achieve became evident during the festival.

Participants said they were impressed by what they saw of Cambodia’s performing arts, thanks in part to PPS’s efforts to offer training free of charge to children and youth like Nouv Srey Leab while pursuing its advocacy of using the arts for community development work.

"I wish I could show the youth in my country how young artists are performing here," said Ma Ma Naing, a participant from Burma. "I think we need to change the performing arts in Myanmar. We cannot simply stick to the old traditional style."

Mika Arashiki, a member of a dance group in Japan, was just as impressed by the performances of the Mekong artists as they showcased their talents. "It is very interesting for me," she said of their performances.

To many, the festival was one major regional gathering of artists collectively committed to using their respective crafts and pursuing their creative endeavors to make an impact on their societies.

Burmese artist Moe Satt, who founded ‘Beyond Pressure’, an art group in a country ruled by a military junta, expressed hope for more collaborative efforts in the future such as what the Mekong festival afforded participants like him, who must constantly grapple with a repressive environment that he longs to be liberated from. This, he said, is the "main theme of all my artworks."

(*This story was written for the ‘Imaging Our Mekong’ programme coordinated by IPS Asia-Pacific.)

'Telepathic' car symbolises Cambodian car industry hopes

Cambodian mechanic Nhean Phaloek sits in his self-designed home-made Angkor 333-2010 car at his house in Phnom Penh

Cambodian mechanic Nhean Phaloek starts his self-designed home-made Angkor 333-2010 car at his house in Phnom Penh.

Cambodian mechanic Nhean Phaloek displays his self-designed home-made Angkor 333-2010 car at his house in Phnom Penh

By Chan Sovannara (AFP)

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH — The gold-coloured convertible turns heads on impoverished Cambodia's roads -- not least because of creator Nhean Phaloek's outlandish claim that it can be operated telepathically.

"I just snap my fingers and the car's door will open. Or I just think of opening the car's door, and the door opens immediately," says the 51-year-old as he proudly shows off the homemade car, named the Angkor 333-2010.

Onlookers gasp as he demonstrates the trick, and with the fibre-glass vehicle having cost him 5,000 dollars and 19 months of labour he is in no mood to reveal the remote control system behind it.

But as with a handful of other Cambodians who make their own curious cars, he dreams the two-seater will help foster an automobile industry in the country, still poor after decades of conflict.

"I am very excited and proud of this car because many people admire me and keep asking me about how I can make it," he says, adding that it reaches speeds of up to 100 kilometres (62 miles) per hour.

Kong Pharith, a 48-year-old former maths and physics teacher who has also produced his own car, says an auto industry is about to blossom in Cambodia.

"Our works will be part of a motivating force for the next generation to access new inventions and show the world that Cambodia has an ability to do what you think we cannot," he says.

The inventor, who first came to national attention in 2005 for building a solar-powered bicycle, thinks he has now hit on a truly unique product with his orange, jeep-like vehicle with solar panels on its roof.

Kong Pharith says it took him four months to design and put the final polish on his "tribrid" car which operates on solar energy, electricity and gasoline, hitting speeds of up to 40 kilometres per hour with its 2,000 watt motor.

"I'm really happy about my achievement but not very satisfied with it yet," he says, adding that Cambodia's lack of modern technology and materials are a minor obstacle to efficient manufacturing.

The dream of building cars in Cambodia may not be far-fetched. Officials have announced plans for South Korean automaker Hyundai to open a plant in southwestern Cambodia, assembling some 3,000 vehicles per year.

Cambodia did actually assemble cars in a factory during the 1960s, before the country was caught in the maelstrom of the Vietnam War.

During the brief manufacturing run, the car known as the "Angkor" was made from imported parts and domestically-made tyres.

Very basic Cambodian-assembled vehicles also still regularly rumble around the countryside, where approximately 80 percent of the country's 14 million people live.

Farmers often depend on "robot cows", large shop-made open-bed trucks with Chinese or Vietnamese engines, which are used to transport people and rice.

The machines, which generally cost a couple of thousand dollars, also serve as generators or water pumps when they are not heaving along pot-holed rural roads.

But in the capital Phnom Penh, elites and the nascent middle class can often be seen driving expensive imports, which are considered a symbol of status and achievement.

"(Cambodians) put more attention into their cars than the clothes they buy," says Jean Boris Roux, who imports Ford vehicles to Cambodia as the country manager for RM Asia.

"I think it's very important for Cambodians to show the success in their professional life through the vehicles they drive," he adds.

Despite the Cambodian love for cars, Roux and several other analysts say its doubtful proper domestic manufacturing will emerge here soon -- especially since neighbouring Thailand remains Asia's auto assembly giant.

"It's not just about having four walls (for a factory). You need hundreds of companies supplying seats, steering wheels, hoods... This is not going to happen in Cambodia for a number of years," Roux says.

Until then, Nhean Phaloek says he will keep making cars at home.

The Angkor 333-2010 is the third he has built, and his first to talk. When he slams the door a voice out of the dashboard moans: "Why do you close me too strongly?"

"Dozens of local and foreign guests have come and seen my car," Nhean Phaloek says with a smile. "One British man told me that it is the Cambodian James Bond car."

Hang tough if Hun Sen gets rough

Published: 29/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Kao Soupha is a lawyer who is well used to government pressure.

LEGAL-EYED: Kao Soupha

The 37-year-old Cambodian believes that if a lawyer is afraid of the state, then many innocent people will have no chance to defend themselves.

For this reason he decided to represent jailed Thai engineer Sivarak Chutipong.

Mr Sivarak, 31, an employee of Thai-owned Cambodia Air Traffic Services, was arrested on Nov 12 on charges of leaking information concerning the flight plan of Thaksin Shinawatra as he travelled to Cambodia.

Mr Sivarak is being held at Prey Sar prison, pending a bail consideration and first hearing on Dec 8.

"I see he [Mr Sivarak] has a good chance of being freed as I believe he did not really steal the flight records," Mr Soupha said.

Mr Soupha admits his client was in a position to know of all the flights in an out of Cambodia but that Thaksin's flight plan was not a secretive matter.

Had Mr Sivarak "spied", he would not have left Cambodia and travelled to Laos on Nov 6 and returned to Cambodia on Nov 9, says Mr Soupha.

He acknowledged the arrest of Mr Sivarak was a headlining issue between the two countries, but it was not a complicated case because as far as he knew there was not much evidence supporting the plaintiff side.

Mr Soupha also believes the arrest of Mr Sivarak was politically motivated and the case should be resolved by the two governments.

"They are playing a game and Mr Sivarak is, unfortunately, in the middle," he said.

According to Cambodian law, if Mr Sivarak is found guilty of spying he faces a jail term of between seven and 15 years.

Mr Soupha specialises in providing legal counselling for Cambodian and foreign people. Most of his cases are concerned with human rights violations and alleged unfair treatment by the Cambodian government.

He often deals with the Thai community in Phnom Penh and is regularly contacted by the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh.

Cambodian Government to Allow Freehold for Foreigners, I won't hold my Breath

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Yet again there is a report that legislation to allow foreigners to buy property in Cambodia freehold is about to become law, according to a new report in the New York Times.

During the last boom Cambodia property became very popular with investors from all around the world, and rightly so; people were buying property and selling 6 months later for a 12% profit, 12 months later for a 24% profit on a regular basis. During this time a report that the government was coming closer to allowing foreigners to buy freehold would make the news at regular intervals -- we all waited and waited but it never came.

I was interviewed by a journalist from the Phhom Penh post round about October 2007, and he asked me if I thought the law would go ahead, depending on who was elected (elections were coming up). I said, at the moment the government doesn't need to change the law, because the economy and property market are doing well, but I see prices levelling off in the next 6 months, at which point the government of the day may reconsider the law.

I was right about prices levelling off; little did I know that this would be followed by Cambodia and many other nations falling prey to the global downturn. Now that Cambodia has suffered quite badly, it is entirely possible that the government may make it easier for foreigners to buy property, as an incentive to choose the country and hopefully cash-in on the rising investment levels seen in other Asian nations.

At the moment foreigners can only buy Cambodian property by setting up a company with a Cambodian senior partner. If they don't want to go that route then they must buy on leasehold, though some developers are giving 99 year leasehold tenures which is full ownership according to some judicial systems.

At this stage however, it is unlikely that changing the law would have a major impact on Cambodian property investment -- certainly nowhere near the effect it would have had during the boom. The international real estate investment landscape has changed; currently the best opportunities lie in established markets, where below market opportunities abound. Established markets are also currently the favourites because of the reduced appetite for risk among private investors.

That said, Cambodia will always be one of the top emerging markets for property investment in my opinion. Before the downturn the economy was growing at a blistering pace of 10-11% per year, based on massive growth in the industrial and services sectors, with construction and real estate also generating significant revenues. This economic growth continued to increase the affluence of Cambodians, and property values and rents continued to grow.

Cambodia has also been left with a number of unique traits from the brutal Khmer Rouge rule:

•Most of male population is under 25; a young vibrant workforce
•Both commercial and private property sectors are relatively new, so pricing is still finding its grounding
•A determination among the entire population to drive the nation forward and to reach their full potential.

These traits made it very popular for retail and commercial investment, on top of the astonishing economic growth. It is likely that Cambodia will regain its popularity with property investors once the economy can return to growth, and the massive bargains start to dry up in established markets. If the new law is improved it will no doubt increase the fervour of this boost.

Ban reflects decline in stocks

Published: 28/11/2009 at 12:00 AM

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The fishing ban against Thai fishermen by Cambodia's Koh Kong authorities last week might be seen as the start of a new series of political conflicts between the Thai and Cambodian governments.

A few medium-sized fishing trawlers lie at anchor in a Phuket port.

But experts from the local industry disagree, seeing the move as conventional practice for the Koh Kong authorities, without any political motivation.

As a way to raise concession fees, the island's authorities are trying to limit fishing activities, with reports already coming that officials are looking to raise the monthly concession fee from 60,000 baht to 80,000 baht per trawler. This could push the total expenses for fishing in these waters to more than 100,000 baht.

Part of the problem is depleted fish stocks in Thai waters as a result of rampant violations of regulations, leading many Thai fishermen to stray into the seas off neighbouring countries.

Another factor is the international reputation of Thai fishermen. Other countries think twice before allowing Thai fishing vessels to enter their waters for fear of losing their stocks to overfishing.

Reports that Thai fishermen have been caught encroaching in foreign waters have appeared quite often, in line with strong fishery exports that have brought revenue of more than 120 billion baht to the country, representing more than 13% of revenues earned by the agricultural sector.

"Overfishing and the use of vast nets and highly advanced tools has depleted the fish stocks in the Gulf of Thailand over the past decades, forcing Thai fishermen to explore new sources," said Mana Sripitak, chairman of the National Fisheries Association of Thailand.

Mana: Thai waters hit by overfishing

But as long as demand for seafood continues to grow, Thai fishermen have to head into the waters of neighbouring countries and sometimes as far away as the Middle East and Africa, he said.

He estimates that more than 800 big trawlers are now engaged in industrial-scale fishing in the waters of many countries, ranging from Indonesia, Burma, Cambodia and Malaysia to India, to Somalia and Benin in Africa.

More than 200 big trawlers are engaged in fishing joint ventures in Indonesia, 100 are in Malaysian waters, up to 300 are in Burma, and more than 100 trawlers are near Cambodia.

Some of these big trawlers with capacities of more than 100 tonnes are also fishing in the Middle East. These trawlers carry either the Thai flag or flags of partner countries to fish legally with operating licences and permissions from local authorities.

They catch a variety of marine produce such as tuna, Indo-Pacific mackerel, sardines and anchovies to meet the strong demand in markets such as Japan, Europe and the Middle East.

Most of the ships' catch is loaded and processed on the carriers, which are equipped with processing and cold-storage facilities, before being unloaded at the buying ports or brought back to Thailand, said Mr Mana.

In addition to overseas fishery operations, the Fisheries Department estimates that more than 5,000 commercial trawlers are fishing in local waters alongside small fishing boats, which help bring the total volume of marine fish being caught to 4 million tonnes a year.

But Mr Mana said the fishery volume has declined every year in line with the falling number of commercial boats, which have dropped from about 10,000 a few years ago.

The dwindling global fish supply could provoke international disputes unless the government enforces the law efficiently to ban the use of improper tools, while promoting sustainable fishery and improving the productivity of the Gulf of Thailand.

Banning fishing during the hatching season is essential, as is the promotion of more farming to help restore falling fish stock, he said.

Normally, the department bans fishing activity during the hatchery season from March to July but many fishermen have violated the ban.

In Japan, where raw fish is a popular food, falling marine production is also a serious problem.

The Japanese government has had to increase the fish supply by promoting more fish farming and releasing mature fish into the sea, he said.

The method not only increases fish stocks but also represents social responsibility, Mr Mana added.

In Thailand, Mr Mana says the department has increased crab output in the same way by processing only male crabs for local and export markets.

Khmer Rouge torturer asked to confess his crimes in full

By Jane Phare
Sunday Nov 29, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Rob Hamill lost his brother to the Khmer Rouge death camps. Photo / Rhys Palmer

The trial of Pol Pot's most notorious lieutenant ended this week, but Olympic rower Rob Hamill will not rest till he gets answers from the man responsible for the torture and death of his brother.

If Rob Hamill gets his way, he will shut himself in a room with a 67-year-old man responsible for unspeakable atrocities and ask him the details of what happened to his oldest brother Kerry.

The trial of Kaing Guek Eav, known as Comrade Duch, ended this week, but for the Hamill family the pain of wondering what their brother went through during two months of torture at S-21, the Khmer Rouge's torture centre, Tuol Sleng, will never end.

Rob, who in August sat for an hour in a Phnom Penh courtroom, slowly and deliberately spelling out the tragic effect Kerry's death had on his family, plans to go back when Duch is sentenced next year.

He has asked his lawyer to arrange a meeting so he can eyeball the S-21's commander and ask him a series of questions - with answers which he dreads hearing.

The questions are gruelling. What sort of torture did Kerry, 27 at the time, endure? And how exactly did he die after he signed a "confession" in October 28, two months after he was captured and taken to Tuol Sleng?

Was Kerry, or any of the handful of Westerners imprisoned, put inside tyres, covered in petrol and burned alive? And where are Kerry's ashes or body so he can visit that place?

"I want to know the truth about my brother. I am certain he [Duch] knows the truth. It's just nonsense to say he doesn't remember him."

Back in the Waikato, Rob is struggling with the concept of forgiveness. When he travelled to Cambodia in August to give evidence and face Duch, he hoped he would be able to forgive the man who commanded a death camp that brought so much pain and misery to so many.

Then he visited Tuol Sleng, to see for himself the instruments of torture, the tiny, dark cells where people like Kerry were held. There he saw paintings that he cannot forget. Of the few to survive S-21 were a handful of artists, kept alive to paint Pol Pot's portrait.

Those artists later painted scenes of what went on at S-21, how those instruments were used to bring unimaginable pain and suffering to the prisoners.

"It was just horrible, seeing those paintings. That was the moment I realised I could never forgive him." What Duch and his henchmen did was "heinous ... unforgivable", he says.

And there was another moment which caused the concept of forgiveness to abandon him. Sitting in court, Rob looked up to find Duch staring intently at him.

Rob remembers staring back for about 10 seconds before Duch finally looked away. It was not a look of remorse or regret, he says.

Rob rejects Duch's defence lawyers' arguments that the former prison chief is remorseful and that his guilty plea should earn him some leniency. He says Duch showed no leniency to Kerry or the other victims.

For that reason, Rob wants Duch imprisoned for life. Cambodia does not have the death penalty, and Rob says for him that is not an option anyway. But one week, even one day taken off Duch's sentence would be a victory for his brother's torturer, he says.

THE ANGUISH of Kerry's loss and the circumstances of his death are always there. It tormented Rob as he rowed - exhausted and sleep-deprived - across the Atlantic Ocean in 1997 with the late Phil Stubbs.

They won the race - eight days ahead of the next boat in. The year before, Rob had represented New Zealand at the Atlanta Olympics and won medals at international rowing regattas.

Tough, disciplined, competitive, but still no closure. That will never come, he says. Nor can the damage to his family life be undone. His teenage years were destroyed, his family torn apart.

His loathing for the man in charge of a prison, where up to 17,000 people were tortured and murdered, is never far from the surface. Rob told Duch in court: "At times I have wanted to 'smash' you - to use your words - in the same way that you 'smashed' so many others.

At times I have imagined you shackled, starved, whipped and clubbed viciously. I have imagined your scrotum electrified, being forced to eat your own faeces, being nearly drowned and having your throat cut."

He wanted the crushing weight of the anger, grief and sorrow he and others felt to be placed on Duch's head: "It is you who should bear the burden alone." Rob told the Cambodian his actions "removed you from the ranks of being human".

BEFORE KERRY went missing, Rob remembers a happy, tight-knit family waiting at home in Whakatane for news of their eldest son and brother, who was sailing his sloop, Foxy Lady, in Southeast Asia. During his testimony, Rob showed photographs of the family life he talked about.

The family waited and slowly the dynamics changed. Rob, 14 at the time, started drinking heavily and his schoolwork suffered. His 15th and 16th birthdays were muted affairs, overshadowed by the family's worry over the missing Kerry.

Then, in January 1980, a neighbour told them to buy a newspaper. Rob went to the local shop with his brother John, and there it was - Whakatane yachtsman Kerry Hamill had been captured and executed by the Khmer Rouge after his yacht strayed into Cambodian waters. He had been taken to S-21, tortured for at least two months until he wrote a confession, then killed.

Life then changed drastically and tragically for the Hamills' parents, Esther and Miles, and their four remaining children, John, Peter, Sue and Rob. John, a year younger than Kerry and his close mate, grew argumentative and violent. Eight months later he took his own life, throwing himself off a cliff. He too was 27 when he died. Miles and brother Peter found his body on rocks below the cliff.

Miles was so distressed that a doctor came in the night to administer sedatives. Says Rob in his court testimony: "He did not, could not, attend the funeral of John, his second son. It was simply too much for him."

Looking directly at Duch, he told him "When you killed my brother Kerry, you also killed my brother John. The effect of these two devastating losses on our family simply cannot be measured. They were massive and incomprehensible."

The previously outgoing and active Hamill family had been virtually destroyed "along with Kerry at S-21".

No one could have dreamed that Kerry's great OE would end so brutally. After cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin, Kerry headed there to earn money to buy his own yacht and sail around the world. He bought the 28-foot sloop Foxy Lady with a Canadian friend, Stuart Glass.

While in Darwin, Kerry met Gail Colley, who became his girlfriend and eventually the woman with whom he planned to spend his life.

The monthly letters that arrived home told of Kerry, Gail and Stuart's colourful adventures. The last letter, from Singapore, arrived in July 1978. After that the silence was deafening.

Gail had left the boat in Singapore to visit her family, planning to join Kerry in a couple of months, while he, Stuart and an Englishman, John Dewhirst, made for Bangkok.

Piecing together what happened, the Hamills think Foxy Lady was blown off course into Cambodian waters and took shelter behind an island.

A gunboat approached the yacht, opened fire, and Stuart was shot and later died. Kerry and Dewhirst were captured and taken to S-21.

The Hamills waited 16 long months for news of their brother, with Esther staring out to sea and saying: "It's okay, he'll turn up for Christmas to surprise us." Instead, the shocked family read of his fate in the local newspaper. As far as Rob and his siblings know, the New Zealand Government had neglected to tell his parents the news. "They seemed as shocked as we were."

And with the news came a gnawing new horror - what had Kerry suffered, for how long, and how had he died? The methods at S-21 were gruesome, and Westerners were singled out and tortured until they admitted to being CIA spies.

It was Duch's job to protect the party and to extract confessions. Dewhirst wrote a "confession" after three weeks and, the Hamills believe, was executed some time after that. Kerry hung on for two months, and it is that eight weeks of unimaginable suffering that haunts Rob, that makes him struggle with the concept of forgiveness.

If there is any comfort to be had, it is the thought that right to the end, Kerry was still lucid, still able to make a mockery of Duch and his confessions without his captors knowing. Kerry's statement in October 1978 is laced with clues and messages for his family, mixed with humour.

He wrote that Colonel Sanders (of the chicken fame) was one of his "superiors", the home number in Whakatane was his CIA operative number and scattered through as members of the CIA are family friends - Colonel Perram was Miles Hamill's gliding instructor, Captain Dodds was an old friend of Kerry's from Whakatane. The public speaking instructor, "Mr S. Tarr", was Esther, Kerry says.

"He was sending a message to our mother. A message of love and hope. And it was as if whatever the final outcome, he would have the last say."

Rob believes Kerry, "my gorgeous, beautiful brother", would not have succumbed easily, that the torture and mistreatment would have made him "angry to the point of outrage", that his will to live would have been evident.

"Then I think there must have been stages when he felt that it was useless to resist," he says in his testimony. "I have wondered how Kerry felt in those days in prison, deprived of food and water, dehumanised beyond belief, and tortured." Rob wonders if his brother considered suicide as "a welcome relief" from the death camp.

And still the question - how did it end? "At best," he told the court, "my brother was blindfolded, taken out of the compound to a pre-dug trench, made to kneel down beside it, hit over the head with a metal bar, his throat slit, then buried." At worst, he was burned alive.

ON THE other side of the world, the suffering of Kerry's family was only just beginning. His parents became depressed, his father weeping alone at night in the kitchen.

Numbed by grief, the Hamills struggled to offer comfort to each other. Gail Colley was devastated by the news of Kerry's torture and death, Rob says. She has never married, or had children.

Now Rob wants to make sure lessons are learned from regimes like the Khmer Rouge and its leader Pol Pot, a four-year period of history that inspired the 1984 movie The Killing Fields, but may well be forgotten. Rob told the court that if there was anything to come from Duch's trial it was that the world "takes notice of the evil that can happen when people do nothing".

On the outside, the man who represented New Zealand in rowing for 16 years and is still busy organising events looks like someone who has his life together. But talk to him about his three sons, Finn, 7, Declan, 5, and Ivan, 2, and there are signs that lessons learned a long time ago affect him still.

He is uneasy about sending his boys to school. Finn was home-schooled until recently, and Rob is not happy with him being in "someone else's hands for six hours a day".

If work commitments allowed, Rob would keep his boys at home, where they will be loved and safe. He worries about having no control over what happens to his children when they are out of his sight. "There is a huge opportunity to destroy a child. I want them to spend time with people they love."

Thai FM: no plan of talks with Cambodia to end diplomatic dispute

(Posted by CAAI News Media)
Nov 28, 2009 (BBC Monitoring via COMTEX) -- [The Nation report: "Mother meets detained son in P Penh jail"]

Takes soil from house as symbolic link to his motherland

Detained Thai employee Siwarak Chotipong met his mother for the first time yesterday since being arrested on a charge of spying.

Siwarak has been accused of passing on fugitive former prime minister Shinawatra's flight information to an official of the Thai Embassy two weeks ago.

Simarak Ra Khon Phanom flew to see her son in Prey Sor prison on the outskirts of Phnom Penh for an hour and a half yesterday afternoon. She took along soil from her house in Nakhon Ratchasima for her son as a symbolic connection with the motherland.

Siwarak has lost some weight but is still in good health and Cambodian authorities are taking good care of her son, she told reporters in Phnom Penh after a visit.

"He wants to get out of jail as soon as possible and is waiting for the court ruling on December 8," she said.

He is not a political victim, but there might have been some misunderstanding and bad luck for him, she said.

Siwarak was arrested on November 12 on the day Thaksin was in Phnom Penh to give a lecture on economic development after being appointed an economic adviser to Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Siwarak, an employee of Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS), was accused of passing Thaksin's flight information to Thai diplomat Kamrob Palawatwichai, who was later expelled from Cambodia.

If found guilty, he would be sentenced to a 7-15-year jail term or fined 5-25 million Cambodian rials (about Bt50,000-Bt250,000) in accordance with article 19 of the Archive law.

Visiting Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh said his country would handle the Siwarak case in accordance with law and international practice.

Tea Banh was in Thailand for a meeting of General Border Committee with his Thai counterpart Prawit Wongsuwan. They agreed to maintain good ties despite the conflict between the two governments.

Siwarak's case is seen as an extension of the diplomatic row between Thailand and Cambodia. Angered by the appointment of Thaksin as Hun Sen's adviser, Thailand downgraded relations with Cambodia and reviewed cooperation projects including a maritime deal.

Meanwhile Cambodia informed Thailand yesterday it was cancelling an agreement to receive a Bt1.4-billion loan to upgrade a highway from the Thai border, Associated Press reported.

Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said his country will not accept the loan because it could afford to build the road on its own.

The secretary to Thailand's foreign minister, Chavanond Intarako-malyasut, downplayed the importance of Phnom Penh's cancellation of the loan to upgrade the 73-mile (117-kilometre) road stretching from Cambodia's northwestern border with Thailand to the province of Siem Reap.

He called it a normal procedure, as yesterday marked three months after the agreement was signed, and Cambodia was supposed to give notice on whether it agreed to its terms.

The road would in large part serve trade between the two countries, which is heavily in Thailand's favour.

He said Thailand had reviewed the agreement, as part of its earlier threat to cancel all assistance agreements, but took no action on it.

Foreign Minister said he has no plan to offer any talks to Cambodia to end the diplomatic dispute as long as Thaksin is still an adviser to Phnom Penh.

"It's a Cambodian problem, not a Thai problem, so it should be Cambodia who should fix it," he said.

Source: The Nation website, Bangkok, in English 28 Nov 09

Militaries could heal battered bilateral ties

By The Nation
Published on November 29, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The positive tone of the Thai and Cambodian defence ministers hold hopes for normalisation

The General Border Committee meeting ended on Friday on a positive note as the Thai and Cambodian defence ministers agreed to work for peace. Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and his Cambodian counterpart, Tea Banh, said they would use their good offices and the armed forces to create the political space needed to bring about the comfort level for the two sides to move on.

The two governments are currently engaged in one of their bitterest diplomatic disputes in decades after Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra as his economic adviser. The move was nothing less than a slap on Bangkok's face. Hun Sen, naturally, said it was his and his country's business as to who he should appoint. He went on to cut Thailand's judicial system to pieces for charging his good friend with corruption, and taunted the Abhisit Vejjajiva government of being immature and lacking credibility and suggested that it seek legitimacy.

Nevertheless, the two defence ministers spent Friday mapping out guidelines for future cooperation between the armed forces and identified specific programmes to serve as a platform for such cooperation. The soccer game between soldiers from the two countries might well be back on schedule.

It has been pointed out that the Thai Army and their Cambodian counterparts, in spite of experiencing hiccups every now and then, have effectively turned the page and moved on from the turbulent years of the previous decades when Vietnam and Thailand turned Cambodia into a high-stakes game. Everybody had blood on their hands and no one is in the mood to dig up the past, hence the desire to leave the political baggage behind.

But let's not let the cosy feelings in Pattaya blur reality. Tea Banh may be the defence minister but we all know that the buck stops with Hun Sen. If Hun Sen does not want Tea Banh to get cuddly with the Thais, he won't.

Hun Sen may think he is smart by adopting this two-pronged strategy - a diplomatic spitting contest between the two capitals, but hugs and kisses between the two soldiers. But the problem strongmen with inflated egos have is that they invariably shoot themselves in the foot. And by that time it could be too late, as the damage could be too severe and the situation out of control.

No one can deny that there is a high degree of pretentiousness in diplomacy, as the outcome of the Pattaya General Border Committee meeting has shown. Maybe that is what is needed. Bangkok may have to pretend that its feelings were not bruised as badly as it seemed, while Cambodia could reap the benefits of the political capital sowed by Tea Banh and its armed forces. Who knows? The two countries could be hugging and kissing each other one day.

End of first Khmer Rouge Tribunal deemed a relative success

By Global Voices Online
November 28, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Many in the international community are calling the first Khmer Rouge Tribunal trial of Kaing Kek Iev, or Duch, a relative success as the trial closed. The Open Society Justice Initiative recently issued a report that the trial “generally satisfied international standards of fairness and due process.” However, according to the report, there have been indications that Cambodian government officials may not participate in future cases, making it difficult to conduct a fair trial for the four Khmer Rouge members awaiting trial: Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith.

One marker of success is found in the fact that Cambodians finally had a forum through which they could share their stories. The Applied Social Research Institute of Cambodia (ASRIC) collected survivors’ testimonies in cities across the United States for use in the Khmer Rouge trials. Below is a video of ASRIC at work:

The Tribunal also increased worldwide awareness of the Khmer Rouge, including this article, which profiles several Cambodians. One of those profiled is Bou Meng, a survivor of the S-21 prison Duch headed, who sought closure in the trial:

For [Meng], having a former S-21 staffer tell him where his wife was killed and buried would also bring a good deal of closure. He cannot perform a traditional Cambodian cremation because it would be too difficult to identify her bones. But, Bou Meng told Duch at the tribunal, if he could find out where she spent her final moments, he would ‘go to that location to get the soil from there to pray for her soul.’

However, neither the staffer nor Duch could remember where Meng’s wife spent her last moments.

Another survivor is Dr. Sophal Ear, who fled the Khmer Rouge as a child and is now a professor and TED fellow. Dr. Ear shares his reaction to Duch’s trial with a memory of his mother:

I never entirely understood the saying ‘Justice delayed is justice denied.’ With my mom’s passing at age 73, before she ever saw a single defendant serve a prison sentence, I now understand.

Duch, who had offered his apology during the trial, has now asked for the charges against him to be dropped.

Syndicated from

Cambodia B1.4bn loan still on


Published: 29/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday Cambodia's decision to scrap a 1.4 billion baht loan from Thailand to subsidise a road improvement project was the result of a misunderstanding.

He was responding to a news report which quoted Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong as saying Phnom Penh decided to cancel the loan.

Mr Abhisit said Cambodia thought Thailand terminated the loan so it sent a letter to inform the government that it would cancel the loan.

He said talks were under way to correct the mix-up. "Cambodia thought we had cancelled [the loan], so they sent a letter to cancel it," Mr Abhisit said.

"In fact, the cabinet hasn't made a decision on the loan scheme."

The 1.4 billion baht loan to upgrade a road from Surin to Siem Reap was discussed by the cabinet after the recent diplomatic spat erupted.

However, the termination of such an international agreement requires approval from parliament to take effect.

Thai-Cambodian ties turned sour when Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser.

Relations took a turn for the worse when Cambodia rejected Thailand's request for extradition of Thaksin to serve a two-year jail sentence and Thailand responded by threatening to review agreements and projects including the loan in question.

Mr Abhisit yesterday brushed aside former foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai's suggestion that the government initiate talks with Phnom Penh to normalise the ties. He said the results of the meeting of the Thai-Cambodia General Border Committee (GBC), which concluded on Friday, were satisfactory.

Thani Thongpakdi, deputy spokesman of the Foreign Ministry, said yesterday the ministry received Cambodia's letter to terminate the loan deal. He declined to say if Phnom Penh's latest move was suggesting bilateral ties were further strained.

He said it was a normal practice for governments to review and if necessary cancel loan deals.

Meanwhile, the GBC meeting and the meeting between detained Thai engineer Sivarak Chutipong and his mother, Simarak na Nakhon Phanom, was seen as a good sign for bilateral relations.

Mr Sivarak, official of the Cambodian Air Traffic Services, was arrested on Nov 12 for allegedly stealing flight information concerning Thaksin. It took two weeks before his mother was allowed to visit him at prison.

His bail request is pending a court review.

Mr Sivarak is scheduled to appear in court for a first hearing on Dec 8.

Thai-Cambodia tension eased

Published: 28/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media) 

The diplomatic dispute between Thailand and Cambodia has been eased after the latter allowed the mum of jailed “Thai spy” to meet her son at Prey Sar prison, Democrat Party spokesman Buranat Samutrak said on Saturday.

Mr Buranat said the political movements by ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra received no responded from the armed forces of the two countries.

He said Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh had on Friday clearly said that the legal trial case against the arrested Thai engineer, Sivarak Chutipong, had nothing to do with politics.

Thai and Cambodian defence ministers vow to keep peace. They agree that a recent diplomatic row between two countries will not lead to conflict on border.

The Thai-Cambodia general border committee meeting in Pattaya concluded on Friday that only peaceful means should be used in settling border disputes between the two countries.

Banteay Chhmar: The potential Community Based Tourism Site in Cambodia

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

2009-11-28  - Banteay Chhmar is identified as the potential for community based tourism (CBT) in sustainable way that can help enhance local livelihood to a better condition while the three dimensions of social, economical and environmental aspects are taken into account

Located in the northwestern of Cambodia and in Banteay Meanchey Province, Banteay Chhmar consists a XII century Angkorean Temple Complex. It is now renovated by the Global Heritage Fund. It is also contains the both Baray- rectangular water reservoirs- from the ancient times and from the Pol Pot era.

Indeed, supporting tourism means supporting economic. As tourism is considered to be a significant tool for poverty mitigation, the site is developed under the theme of Community Based Tourism. .

Visitors can explore the historical site and enjoy a wide range of community based tourism activities. You can taste the food prepared by the local women, do picnic in the temple compound, spend a night in traditional wooden home stay and visit the Mekong Silk center to experience the process of gaining silk product and consequently be able to purchase the local product. To get deeply exploration, you can also visit the hidden satellite temples around Banteay Chhmar which is the unique experience that not many people have had. Generally, it is possible to access but only by walking. Those satellite temples are:

1. Chenh Choem Trey Temple (Raising Fish): a temple from the 12th century, located on a small hill with a small pond in the wet season.

2. Yeay Korm Temple: a small and much damaged temple where it is estimated that about 80 % is ruined.

3. West Samnang Ta Sok Temple: a temple that lies inside a forest on a mountain.
4. East Samnang Ta Sok Temple: a temple that resembles the main temple.

5. Ta Prum Temple and Balang Temple: Ta Prum temple is a beautifully restored temple that is surrounded by a mote. The ruins of the temple Balang is located nearby.

6. Me Bun Temple: a ruined temple with loose rocks but well visited by the local villagers.
7. Yeay Chour Temple: a much damaged temple that is not very clean and has many people living nearby.

8. Ta Em Temple (Sweet Man): a small temple where people live just besides.
The roads leading to the temples are small ancient roads which are in bad condition and some of the temples do not even have roads connected to them. Both CBT members and tourists wish to improve the access to the satellite temples. Your involvement and participation in the community based tourism will help economically contribute to the community physical infrastructure improvement.

For Cambodia Tour packages:
For Cambodia flights:

Man who helped Davik turning to heart charity full-time

Peter Chhun, left, and Sin Chhon and her daughter Davik Teng, 9, check out the menu at McDonalds in Long Beach in February 2008. Davik was aided to get life-saving heart surgery by the nonprofit founded by Chhun, Hearts Without Borders (Jeff Gritchen/Press-Telegram)

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/27/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

LONG BEACH - On Dec. 4, Peter Chhun will end a career and begin a life's purpose. He leaves a profession to pursue a passion.

An Emmy Award-winning producer and editor for NBC Network News, Chhun is also the founder of nonprofit Hearts Without Boundaries, which brings destitute children with heart problems from Cambodia to the U.S. for life-saving surgery.

Beginning Friday, the 60-year-old Cambodian refugee, who worked as an NBC cameraman during the country's civil war and escaped before the Khmer Rouge's final conquest, will be able to devote himself full time to his nonprofit's mission of "saving one heart at a time."

His long-term goal is to create a cardiac unit that can "save lots of hearts at a time."

Oh, and he's starting a new school in Cambodia.

It's anyone's guess what else will spring up in the peripatetic Peter's path.

Whatever it is, it will be in service to others. Because Chhun knows that but for a trick of fate his life would be vastly different.

"I'd like to help my country," Chhun says. "My life at one time I had nothing. My parents couldn't read or write. This is a time to return and do something about it. I formed my nonprofit knowing one day I would return. This has been my dream and my goal for so long."

If it seems like a lot to accomplish, consider:

In the past two years Chhun has already brought two children to the U.S., Davik Teng, 9, and Soksamnang Vy, 1, for life-altering surgery.
Worked with doctors from Variety Children's Lifeline, which sends missions to Cambodia annually to perform minor cardiac procedures.

Filmed and produced a documentary about AIDS and the sex trade in his home country called "Life Under the Red Light," which has been shown locally.

Delivered food, eyeglasses and medical supplies to far-flung villages.

And he did all that as a side gig to his full-time paying job at NBC.

"Seeing his dedication and hard work, I can't imagine what he'll be able to do (full time)," says Susan Grossfeld, who has worked with Chhun through Variety and helped broker the deal for Vy's surgery. "It gives me great hope for all the children of Cambodia whom we help. I think he's built an invaluable network."

Roots in war
Chhun could easily have been a victim. As an eager if unskilled and untrained young man he was handpicked by NBC correspondent Philip Brady to be a cameraman and companion to cover the growing civil war in Cambodia in the early and mid 1970s.

Chhun was out of the country on April 17, 1975, when the Khmer Rouge took control of Phnom Penh and the capital. Although Chhun escaped, his mother was one of the upward of 2 million who died during the horrific reign of the Khmer Rouge.

The ghosts of that time still haunt Chhun and have shaped his resolve.

"I am one of the lucky ones who got out of the Killing Fields to the greatest country on Earth," Chhun says. "Now it's time to return and help out those who didn't have the same chance."

Heading into retirement, Chhun is narrowing his focus to two seemingly disparate projects that dovetail to a single purpose.

Chhun wants to create a school in Phnom Penh to teach the English language and Cambodian culture to children from the country's growing middle and upper middle classes and use profits from that venture to fund "Hearts Without Boundaries."

Currently, there are 17 Cambodian children with heart defects whose families have come to Chhun seeking help.

In two years, Chhun brought Davik and Vy, known as "Lucky," to the U.S. for life-altering surgeries.

Both had ventricular septal defects, or holes in their hearts, that strained their lungs and hearts. The effect saps energy and shortens life expectancy. And while it is easily fixed in the U.S., it requires use of a heart-lung machine and expertise not readily available in Cambodia.

While those surgeries were successes and Davik and Lucky are now living healthy lives, they have also brought a flood of appeals that Chhun can't begin to honor.

Finding help difficult
In the past year in the wake of a slumping economy, Chhun has found it hard to find hospitals to donate services and donors to help defray travel and lodging costs for patients.

Even if Chhun could find funding for one child per year, it would barely put a dent in the need. Most of the kids will continue to suffer and some may die waiting. The defects of others will worsen until surgery is no longer an option. Such is the tragedy of Cambodia and the frailty of life in the third world.

Because "Hearts Without Boundaries" is a volunteer group with very limited funding, Chhun can only do so much.

He has had discussions about helping to facilitate a cardiac catheterization laboratory in his home country so that hundreds of children with life-threatening ailments could receive treatment.

However, that requires not only machinery, but specially trained staff, service and technical support, that are beyond anything Cambodia has today. So that project may be years away.

None of that fazes Chhun. His proposed English and Khmer culture school is already in the works.

'...a winner'
Alex Morales, a Cal State Long Beach educator who has made numerous educational and humanitarian aid trips to Cambodia, is working with Chhun on the school plan. He has no doubts his energetic partner will make the school a success.

"I feel very confident that under his leadership and with his enthusiasm it is going to be a winner," Morales says.

Groundwork for this has already begun and the hard-charging Chhun plans to open the school doors in May.

Grossfeld feels sure Chhun will be able to save more children "because his heart's so into it," she says.

"I don't have any question we'll see more kids like Davik and Lucky having their hearts repaired, either here or in Southeast Asia," Grossfeld says.

"I don't know how many more lives we can save, but we'll continue to do that," Chhun says.

Thai-Cambodia tension eased

Published: 28/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The diplomatic dispute between Thailand and Cambodia has been eased after the latter allowed the mum of jailed “Thai spy” to meet her son at Prey Sar prison, Democrat Party spokesman Buranat Samutrak said on Saturday.

Mr Buranat said the political movements by ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra received no responded from the armed forces of the two countries.

He said Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh had on Friday clearly said that the legal trial case against the arrested Thai engineer, Sivarak Chutipong, had nothing to do with politics.

Thai and Cambodian defence ministers vow to keep peace. They agree that a recent diplomatic row between two countries will not lead to conflict on border.

The Thai-Cambodia general border committee meeting in Pattaya concluded on Friday that only peaceful means should be used in settling border disputes between the two countries.

Cambodia Cancels MoU with Thailand

Saturday, 28 November 2009 04:39 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Friday announced that the Cambodian Government has cancelled an MoU on a road construction loan with Thailand after the diplomatic relations between Thailand and Cambodia have continued to deteriorate. Cambodia and Thailand have already recalled their respective ambassadors.

The Government decided to cancel the MOU at the last minute, Koy Kuong, MFA spokesman and undersecretary of state, told DAP News Cambodia late yesterday evening.

Now the Government has enough to build 117 km of National Road 68 linking from Kralanh to O’smach to neighboring Thailand without any loans, he said.

The MoU in question was signed on 27 August, 2009 and which have seen Thailand provided a concession loan worth US$41 million.

In a separating issue, yesterday defence ministers from Thailand and Cambodia conducted a Joint Border Committee (JBC) meeting in Pattaya to discuss bilateral cooperation between the two countries along the border. “Thai and Cambodian armed forces will support every mechanism between the two countries to improve ties,” Thai Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan quoted as saying by Reuters in a news conference after meeting his Cambodian counterpart in Pattaya, southeast of Bangkok.

“The highest goal would be the safety of the public and sustainable peace at the border,” he said after a two-day meeting of the Thai-Cambodia General Border Committee, a forum that meets a few times a year to discuss military ties. “Cambodia will not do anything that would affect the public in both countries. We will avoid any action that would lead to a conflict between the two countries,” Cambodian Defence Minister Gen. Tea Banh told the news conference. Cambodia and Thailand relation have soured since July 2008 when Thai troops encroached on areas around Cambodia’s 11th century Preah Vihear temple.