Sunday, 13 December 2009

Amputees seek volleyball crown

Dec 13, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH - AS CHIM Phan gracefully leaps for the ball on the dusty Cambodian volleyball court, it's hard to believe the star athlete is missing his lower leg - until you notice his tell-tale prosthetic limb.

He and his team-mates are the impoverished country's only world-ranking sports team, the top disabled volleyballers in the Asia-Pacific region and third-best in the world after Germany and Slovakia.

'We want to get to number one,' Chim Phan said after a tough training session ahead of the 2009 World Cup tournament, which begins on Monday in Phnom Penh with six nations battling for the championship. 'Now our disabled sport is well known, not only throughout Cambodia but also overseas. People were surprised that disabled people can play sport.... Now they recognise it and they're very interested.'

The 38-year-old's missing leg is a grim reminder of his country's three decades of bloody civil conflict and the 1970s genocide by the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. In common with around 40,000 Cambodians, his life was devastated 12 years ago by one of the millions of landmines that still litter the countryside despite intensive demining efforts since the early 1990s.

'In the past I felt sorry for myself after I stepped on a landmine. But now I think I have the same ability as other people because I can work and I can play sport,' he said.

The father-of-three, who makes wheelchairs for a living, has applied his steely determination to becoming a medal-winning runner as well as one of the best players in the Cambodian National Volleyball League (Disabled). The league, made up of ten provincial teams, was set up in 2003 to 'raise awareness about disability issues and the landmine issues,' said its Australian founder and secretary general, Chris Minko. -- AFP

Abhisit, Kasit Should Thank Hun Sen: Pheu Thai

Sunday, 13 December 2009 04:23 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vijajjiva and foreign minister Kasit Piromya should send a letter thanking Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen for seeking a pardon for Sivarak Chutipong from the Cambodian King, Norodom Sihamoni on Friday, Pheu Thai spokesman Jirayu was quoted as saying by the Bangkok Post on Saturday.

“Mr Abhisit and Mr Kasit should phone to Hun Sen to thank him on helping the Thai engineer be released,” Jirayu said, adding that the government should not consider the release as an achievement of the opposition party.

Norodom Sihamoni on Friday morning pardoned the Thai, jailed for 7 years and fined CR10 million for spying on fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra during his 4 day-visit to Cambodia beginning November 10, a Cambodian government spokesman said.

“On Friday morning Hun Sen said that if the man wants to continue working in Cambodia, he is welcome,” Khieu Kanharith confirmed, adding that the premier Hun Sen will give the formal pardon request on Monday to his family and Phue Thai Party Leaders.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Friday welcomed news of a royal pardon for a Thai jailed in Cambodia for spying, Sivarak Chutipong, but said the government had not received official confirmation from Phnom Penh, the Bangkok Post reported on Friday.

He said it would be good if the report was true because this would mean Sivarak’s freedom.

Sivarak’s mother, Simarak na Nakhon Phanom, has alleged that Kamrob Palawatwichai, former first secretary to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, called her son on the telephone and asked for the information, according to Thai media.

Siwarak’s arrest in Phnom Penh last month deepened a diplomatic crisis over Cambodia’s appointment of Thaksin as an economic adviser and its refusal to extradite the ousted premier to Thailand.

Several reasons motivated the Cam-bodian King’s pardon of the Thai spy, including the jailed man’s lawyer-declining to appeal the case, Pheu Thai leaders asking for help from the PM Hun Sen, and Thaksin making efforts to seek help Sivarak.

Fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said in his Twitter page on Saturday morning that he plans to visit leaders of three Asian countries next week, the Bangkok Post added.

“This trip will take about seven or eight days” Thaksin said but did not give any details on the name of countries he would visit.

There was a report that Thaksin might also visit Cambodia to meet with Sivarak Chutiphon. Thaksin’s close associate Noppadon Pattama was reached for confirmation of the new trip to Cambodia of Thaksin but he said he had no knowledge about it.

The opposition Puea Thai Party on Friday called for Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and Kamrob Palawatwichai, former first secretary to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, and accepts responsibility for having caused Sivarak Chutipong’s suffering in Cambodia.

4th National Industrial Relations Conference to be Held on Monday

Sunday, 13 December 2009 04:22 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Arbitration Council (AC) in cooperation with other governmental agencies and other stakeholders will conduct a trade conference under the theme of “Global Economic Crisis and Cambodian Industrial Relations: Chall-enges and Way Forward,” an AC press release obtained on Saturday said.

While much news has been circulated about the global economic crisis and its effect on Cambodia’s economy and certain industries like garments and tourism, less attention has been paid to its impact on the working relationships between the workers and management of those industries, the statement said, adding that the conference will bring together key stakeholders, researchers, experts and members of the public to discuss the industrial relations challenges felt by workers and employers, as well as recommendations and responses for impro- ved industrial relations in Cambodia during and beyond the global economic crisis.

It will conduct on Monday at international hotel, said Y Samphy, AC press officer, adding that it will bring together key players in the Cambodian industrial relations community—unions, employers, government, international buyer associations, and other relevant national and civil society organizations.

S. Korea Vows US$ 33 Million for Health

Sunday, 13 December 2009 04:21 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The South Korean government has been supporting amount US$ 33 million for Cambodia to focus on the health sector, a Ministry of Health official said on Saturday at the Imperial Hotel in Phnom Penh.

Minister of Health Mam Bunheng said that “The South Korean government always had scholarships for Cambodia; it is a way to friendship between Cambo- dia and South Korea.”

“The sessions were through the Camkaa (Cambodia Korean Associati- on) who led the process and sent Cam-bodian students to research,” Bunheng explained.

Ly Quung Shou, South Korean Ambassador to Cambodia, said that “Our government has been supporting since 1991with more than US$ 33 million in aid to Cambodia.”

Our government set main targets to improve our economy and become close to Cambodia, Ly added.

Camkaa Director Chhou Eimeng said that both Cambodia and the South Korean government have good cooperation, including the political, economic, social, cultural, and tourism sectors.

“The government of Korea had supported both technology and human resource to boost Cambodia’s development, especially to ensure all Cambodians’ well-being.” Minister Mam Bunheng continued that the Cambodian government has goals to create a health system for all Cambodians.

He stressed that the government aims to reduce poverty, boost the economic recovery, capacity building, and improve well-being.

Reproductive Program a Priority for Cambodia: MoH

Sunday, 13 December 2009 04:21 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Ministry of Health (MoH) opened a forum for Cambodian youths about the Reproductive Program (RP), a priority of the government’s strategies, the minister of health said on Friday at the Le Royal Hotel in Phnom Penh.

MoH Secretary of State Eng Hourt said that “The main target of the MoH is reduce to die mothers in Cambodia, so the reproductive program is very strict to learn and set a core of the National Health’s strategy.”

“We must boost all services to help Cambodian women during pregnancy. We also included a program of reproductive study for them.” “The law of abortion was approved since 1997—it ensures the best quality for Cambodian women in give a birth in the period time, no recommendation in abortion, or postpone, we must together to fight.”

Katherine Crawford, USAID´s public health and educational officer, said that “Between 2000 and 2005, postpone increased from 19 to 27 percent.”

At the end of the year, it could not be achieved, and about 40 percent was postponed, she added.

This is “a serious thing, especially affecting all Cambodian poor women.”

Christ Jaun representative for PSI said that “The death of mothers and children are the more serious concerns.”

The Cambodian government should improve the problems to ensure Cambodian women’s well-being by extending the reproductive program to all mothers, he added.

Ex-Thai PM arrives in Cambodia to meet Thai engineer


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) -- Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra arrived here on Sunday afternoon to meet a Thai engineer who was convicted to seven years in jail by a Cambodian court for stealing information and passing it onto his government.

Thaksin will meet with the Thai man, Sivarak Chotipong, at the prison in the southern suburbs of Phnom Penh.

Sivarak Chotipong was arrested last month in Phnom Penh and was charged with a kind of spying work that the Cambodia court considered harmful to public order and national security.

He was convicted on Dec. 8 to seven years in jail by a Cambodian court and a fine of 10 million riels (about 2,500 U.S. dollars).

Sivarak Chotipong, 31, was expected to be released on Monday after Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni pardoned him on Friday.

The court said Sivarak was collecting information of a flight schedule of his country's former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's visit to Cambodia on Nov. 10.

During the hearing, Sivarak pleaded not guilty saying he did not copy any document, but only looked through the flight plan and passed it on to a Thai diplomat in Phnom Penh.

Sivarak was employed as an engineer at the Thai-owned Air Traffic Services Company at the Phnom Penh International Airport at which Thakin's special plan landed.

Sivarak's mother has asked Thailand's opposition Pheu Thai Party for help releasing her son.

Some officials from the Pheu Thai Party also came here and will join the event of returning Sivarak to his mother on Monday.

Thaksin was toppled from power in 2006 and he has lived in self-exile in foreign countries since then to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption. Thaksin Shinawatra was officially appointed as adviser of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Royal Government of Cambodia on Nov. 4 and paid his first visit here on Nov. 10 as the adviser.

Editor: Fang Yang

A year into office, no unity under Thai PM Abhisit: analysts

13 December 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK: In the year since he became Thai premier with no popular mandate, Abhisit Vejjajiva has underperformed on the domestic and regional stage and failed to reconcile a deeply divided nation, analysts say.

The Democrat party leader assumed power after winning a slim majority in a parliamentary vote on December 15 last year, following the downfall of a previous ruling party allied to ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Abhisit Vejjajiva

After the constitutional court dissolved the People Power Party, prompting anti-Thaksin protesters to end a nine-day blockade of Bangkok's airports, the army helped to install a fragile coalition under the British-born Abhisit.

But analysts say the 45-year-old has failed to deliver on promises of national reconciliation in a kingdom still firmly split between supporters and foes of Thaksin, who was deposed in a 2006 coup.

"Thailand is further divided. It is further polarised," Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political analyst at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, told AFP.

"In his acceptance speech he said he would be a prime minister for everyone. But in fact he has not reached out to the other side."

Since Abhisit took office he has regularly invoked the tough Internal Security Act (ISA) when faced with protests by thousands of anti-government "Red Shirts" – Thaksin loyalists mainly from poor, rural areas in the north.

By contrast, during rallies by the rival, royalist "Yellow Shirts" who staged the airport siege that brought Abhisit to power, the prime minister has not enforced the ISA, Thitinan points out.

"The charges of double standards have been reinforced," he said, explaining that Abhisit had "leant back" on the yellows, a group tacitly supported by Thaksin-hating, Bangkok-based elites in the palace, bureaucracy and military.

Michael Montesano, a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, said that equally worrying was the increased use under Abhisit of a strict lese majeste law. Under this law, insulting or defaming any royal family member is punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

"Those among Abhisit's foreign admirers who have always considered him a fellow liberal need to ask themselves how, if he's really such a liberal, he can preside over a government that so regularly uses this law," he said.

Paul Chambers, a senior research fellow in Thai politics at Germany's Heidelberg University, agreed the eloquent, Oxford-educated Abhisit had given Thailand "a presentable face on the international stage".

But he questioned the government's real effectiveness, for example in dealing with a separatist insurgency in the mainly Muslim south that has claimed 4,000 lives since January 2004.

"The Abhisit government has sought to place politics before the military... but any claims by the government that the insurgency is waning or that violence is down remain unsubstantiated," he said.

In terms of economic performance, Chambers recognised that Abhisit's approval of a one-time 2,000 baht (60-dollar) hand-out for the poor in the face of the recession "could be seen as a sort of plus for the government".

But while this seemed to ape Thaksin's populism, Thitinan said the Abhisit coalition had "got it wrong from the beginning" with stimulus packages that failed to address a desire for upward social mobility.

The twice-elected billionaire Thaksin has continued to loom large over the political landscape, despite living in self-imposed exile to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption.

When Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed Thaksin economics adviser last month, angering Bangkok, the Thai premier showed a "cheap, anti-Cambodian" approach that "made clear that Abhisit is someone that loses his cool in international affairs," said Thitinan.

He said other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations also found Abhisit "very difficult to work with", and blamed a lack of success under Thailand's chairmanship of the body this year on his domestic preoccupations.

"Abhisit has played the role he was assigned – to represent a group of interests whose politics are defined by hatred and fear of Thaksin – and he has not yet grown larger than that role," Montesano said.

Freed Thai engineer to meet ex-premier Thaksin before release in Cambodia

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK, Dec 13 (TNA) -- Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is considering whether to again request the Cambodian government to extradite fugitive, ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra if he visits Phnom Penh on Monday, Panithan Watanayakorn, deputy secretary-general to Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Sunday.

Fugitive, ousted prime minister Thaksin on Sunday flew in his private jet to the Khmer capital of Phnom Penh, passing through Malaysian airspace, according to Buranat Samutrak, spokesman for Thailand’s ruling Democrat Party.

Mr. Thaksin, appointed economic adviser to the Cambodian government in early November, left Colombo earlier Sunday, asking permission to fly through Malaysian airspace with Phnom Penh as his destination, Mr. Buranat said, citing information from international cooperation.

The Democrat party spokesman said the Thai government would check the information again to confirm if he was abroad that plane and would request the extradition of Mr. Thaksin from the Khmer government, but it is not known whether Phnom Penh will cooperate.

Dr Panithan said the ministry had already received information that Mr Thaksin plans to visit Cambodia again and if the information is correct, it may ask the Khmer government to detain and extradite him to Thailand.

However, the planned request would not affect Cambodia’s decision to release Siwarak Chutipong, the Thai employee who was tried and convicted of passing Mr Thaksin’s travel information to a Thai consular official and who will be freed on Monday, Dr Panitan said.

Mr Siwarak was taken into custody on November 12 and was later sentenced to seven years jail term and fined Bt100,000 (US$3,000) for releasing the flight details of Mr Thaksin when the ex-Thai premier visited Phnom Penh last month on his first trip there after being appointed economic adviser to the Cambodian government.

Mr Siwarak's release came after Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni granted a royal pardon to him last Friday.

Prior to Mr Thaksin’s visit to Cambodia last month, the Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry had also requested Cambodia to help arrest and extradite him, but the request was rejected by the Cambodian government which said that charges against the ousted premier was a political offence and not a crime in that country.

Meanwhile, Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith confirmed that Mr Thaksin would arrive in Phnom Penh on Sunday and meet Mr Siwarak before the detainee leaves for Bangkok on Monday.

Mr Thaksin will stay in Cambodia for a time and will speak on the economy during his stay in Cambodia, said Mr Kanharith. (TNA)

Cambodia: Extended German relief aid for victims of Typhoon Ketsana

Source: Government of Germany
Date: 11 Dec 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Phnom Penh, 11 December 2009 - With the aim to support those victims of typhoon Ketsana who have lost their houses and suffer from food shortages due to the devastating tropical storm the Federal Republic of Germany has, in addition to its previous assistance, provided 200.000 Euro relief aid. The additional assistance is channelled through the German Organisation Welthungerhilfe in cooperation with the local Ketsana Emergency Response network. The assistance will bridge humanitarian assistance provided earlier and will support efforts to reconstruct communal infrastructure in Ratanakiri Province. The affected population will also receive agricultural inputs in order to prepare for the next harvesting season.

In October 2009, the Federal Republic of Germany already provided 228.920 Euro assistance to the victims of typhoon Ketsana of which 200.000 Euro were addressed to assist the efforts of reconstruction and food provision through the NGO Care in Ratanakiri Province as well as for immediate relief aid in cooperation with the Red Cross.

In total, the Federal Republic of Germany therewith provided 428.920 Euro of relief aid to the victims of typhoon Ketsana.

Thaksin to arrive in Cambodia Sunday: govt

Thaksin Shinawatra (right) with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in early November

Supporters of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who is set to arrive in Cambodia

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH — Thailand's fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra was expected in Cambodia Sunday to meet a Thai man jailed for spying on him last month, a government spokesman said.

"He (Thaksin) will arrive today," government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told AFP. "He will meet the Thai man... and he will conduct one or two (economic) workshops in Cambodia during his stay."

A visit by Thaksin to Cambodia last month caused a diplomatic row when Cambodian premier Hun Sen refused to extradite the Thai tycoon to Thailand to serve a two-year jail term for graft.

Thai national Siwarak Chothipong, 31, was due to be released from prison on Monday after Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni issued a pardon. He was jailed for seven years for supplying Thaksin's flight schedule to the Thai embassy.

Thaksin, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006, made his trip to Cambodia last month to take up an economic advisory role with the government on the personal invitation of Hun Sen.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Friday said his government would likely submit another extradition request if Thaksin made a return trip.

Thaksin is living abroad to avoid the jail term for corruption, but has continued to stir up protests in his homeland.

Angered by his presence in Cambodia, Thailand put all talks and cooperation on hold and tore up an oil and gas exploration deal signed during Thaksin's tenure as prime minister.

Cambodia expelled a Thai diplomat who received the flight information from Siwarak. Thailand retaliated in kind hours later.

Both countries had earlier also withdrawn their ambassadors in the dispute over Thaksin's appointment to the advisory job.

Chavalit not going to Cambodia


Published: 13/12/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Puea Thai chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh will not fly to Cambodia to bring back a Thai engineer who will be released from jail tomorrow after being granted a royal pardon in a spying case, an aide said yesterday.

But the opposition Puea Thai Party's plan to ask its MPs to accompany Simarak na Nakhon Phanom and her 31-year-old son Sivarak Chutipong, an engineer who worked for the Cambodian Air Traffic Services (CATS), home tomorrow remains in place.

Piratch Sawamiwas, a close aide of Gen Chavalit, said the general has decided not to travel with the Puea Thai MPs to Cambodia despite the fact that he had played a key role in his release.

"He doesn't want to face more criticism that the engineer's detention and release was a set-up. He just wants to remain behind the scenes," said Lt Gen Piratch.

Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is expected to join the event in Cambodia.

Thaksin announced on his Twitter page yesterday that he would be making a week-long trip to the region to visit the leaders of three Asian countries.

However, the countries were not named.

"I have asked for permission to travel to exchange views with three leaders in Asia and I will try to stay connected with you via Twitter, SMS or online radio programmes," Thaksin wrote without offering further details.

When Thaksin's close aide and legal adviser Noppadon Pattama was reached for confirmation of the Cambodian trip, he denied having any knowledge about it.

An official in Cambodia's Poipet township told reporters yesterday that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had instructed authorities in Poipet and the border province of Banteay Meanchey to prepare to welcome the Puea Thai MPs flying in tomorrow.

However, the official could not confirm if Thaksin would fly into Cambodia on that day.

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni granted a pardon to Sivarak on Friday, three days after he was sentenced to seven years in prison for spying.

Sivarak was found guilty by a Cambodian court of stealing the flight plan of Thaksin ahead of his visit to Cambodia last month as Cambodia's economic adviser.

Sivarak was arrested by Cambodian authorities on Nov 12, two days after Thaksin arrived in Phnom Penh by private jet and one day after the first secretary at the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, Kamrob Palawatwichai, was expelled for asking Sivarak to divulge the information.

The case soured relations between the two countries.

Sivarak will be released from jail following a pardon which was granted on humanitarian grounds.

Cambodia says that Thaksin played a key role in the release by personally phoning Hun Sen and enlisting his help in seeking a royal pardon.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday offered no comment on the matter.

Resistance Is Futile, You Will Be Bought

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

December 12, 2009: Three decades of energetic economic growth have made China mighty. But the changes have made the country more difficult to govern, at least as a communist police state (which is what China actually is, despite a huge PR campaign trying to conceal the rough side of this). For example, the more affluent, better educated segment of the population, that goes along with the larger, more dynamic economy, are harder to intimidate into blind obedience. Alarmed at corruption, pollution and inept civil servants, these new middle class Chinese are smart enough to protest without ending up in a prison camp. These citizens know how to use lawyers (even though the legal system is dominated by Communist Party officials), the Internet and the mass media (even though most of it is, in theory, controlled by the government) to pressure the government. The way the younger generation (those who began using the Internet in the last decade) has adopted an independent attitude is very worrisome. These young people are very smart, ambitious and resourceful. The government fears this, and is really uncertain how to deal with them. Putting lots of them in prison could cripple, or hobble, the economy. But letting these kids run free, could smash the police state that has ruled China for over 60 years. This is doubly scary, as this generation will come of age (to take more senior government and business jobs) at the same time, in 20-30 years, that China's population control efforts of the last three decades, will begin to reach a crises (too many retirees and too few workers).

Relations between China and Cambodia are continuing to go downhill. Cambodia has been more aggressive against ethnic Chinese groups (and their armed militias) who have long lived on the Cambodian side of the border. This is the Wild West for both nations, long a generally lawless (or just poorly policed) area. For several decades after World War II, this region was the source of most of the world's heroin supply (that business has relocated, because of military pressure, to Afghanistan). Now, the border area is being used by Uighurs trying to escape the Chinese police (and prison, or worse, because the cops are looking for real, or potential, enemies-of-the-state among Uighurs.) Burma is willing to tighten border security, and send back Chinese exiles. But the Burmese generals want more Chinese economic and military support. Burma is also a police state (but not a communist one) that has ruined its economy. So economic help is important. China is interested in making deals.

Major Chinese military headquarters have been ordered to adapt to modern communications technology. Currently, there is still a lot of paper (lots of it handwritten) being pushed within the Chinese bureaucracy. The new regulations are an attempt to change that, sooner rather than later.

Last year, Taiwan opened up to Chinese tourists. Next year, Chinese can attend Taiwanese universities. Taiwan still bars Chinese graduates of Taiwanese universities from taking jobs in Taiwan, and greatly restricts Chinese investment in Taiwan. The Taiwanese universities were eager to take Chinese students, although the government wasn't. But in the last decade, Taiwanese universities have expanded, as the Taiwanese birthrate plummeted. The Taiwanese universities face ruin if they don't get more students, and Chinese speaking students from the mainland are perfect. The Taiwanese universities provide a U.S. style education, but largely in Chinese. While English is still seen as a necessity for success, not all students are that good at learning very different Western languages.

All this appears to be part of a Chinese strategy of gradually absorbing Taiwan. To that end, China has long been receptive to investment by Taiwanese firms. This has led to hundreds of billions of dollars of Taiwanese money being invested in China. So many Taiwanese live, full or part time, to oversee these investments, that over five percent of the Taiwanese population is in China at any time. Taiwan is less welcoming, fearing that China will simply buy control of Taiwanese media, and slowly change the message (to a very pro-Chinese one) and buy control of large (and key) Taiwanese companies. The basis for this is the enormous economic growth in China. Last year, China passed Germany to become the third largest economy on the planet (after the U.S. and Japan). Currently, the U.S. has a GDP of $13.8 trillion, Japan $4.4 trillion, China, $3.5 trillion and Taiwan $700 billion. The per-capita share of that GDP varies greatly, since the U.S. has 302 million population, China 1,300 million, Japan 127 million and Taiwan 23 million. Thus the average Japanese generates more than ten times the GDP as the average Chinese, and the average Taiwanese, more than six times. But Chinese companies hold on to a lot of cash, and the Chinese government can mobilize huge amounts of cash. So Taiwan has more to fear from a Chinese hostile buyout, than from a military invasion. A military operation would be bad for business, while a buyout would not.

December 4, 2009: In the last two days, eight more people have been sentenced to death, for crimes committed during the ethnic violence in western China last July. Nine people, all local Turkic Uighurs, have been executed for similar crimes. Hundreds have been sent to prison. Over 200 people, including some police, were killed during the unrest. While police killed some, most were victims of Uighur or ethnic (Han) Chinese rioters.

Anne Hathaway: A Friend Without A Border

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Anne Hathaway wears a flattering one-shoulder number at the Friends Without A Border Gala Benefit at L.A.’s Roosevelt Hotel on Thursday (December 10).

The 27-year-old actress supported Friends Without A Border, an organization dedicated to providing medical care and education to Cambodian children through Angkor Hospital for Children.

Joining Anne at the gala to recognize FWAB were Jennifer Morrison of House and her boyfriend, Amaury Nolasco, formerly of Prison Break.

Royal pardon for Sivarak welcomed

Abhisit says no review of stance on Cambodia

Published: 12/12/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thailand has welcomed Cambodia's royal pardon for a Thai engineer who was sentenced to seven years in prison for spying.

The move was seen as a positive step for the two neighbours to mend ties after a diplomatic spat.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday welcomed Sivarak Chutipong's freedom following the royal pardon granted by Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni, saying it was good news the case was about to come to an end.

He expressed confidence that Sivarak's ''implication'' of the first secretary at the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, Kamrob Palawatwichai, to whom he provided the information would not further widen a rift between Thailand and Cambodia.

Mr Abhisit said he did not think the issue would be magnified for political reasons, as Sivarak insisted that the information he had obtained was not confidential.

But Mr Abhisit said the engineer's release would not prompt the government to review its stance on Cambodia.

''The cause of the row is not Mr Sivarak. It is something else,'' he said

''Thailand wants to be a good neighbour and we will not intrude on Cambodia's decision, but we will strongly protect what is our nation's interest.''

King Norodom Sihamoni granted a pardon to Sivarak, 31, yesterday - three days after he was sentenced to seven years in prison for spying.

Sivarak was found guilty of stealing the flight plan of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra ahead of his visit to Cambodia last month. The case had soured relations between the two countries.

Thaksin played a role in winning Sivarak's release by calling Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen and asking for leniency, said Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith.

''Thaksin spoke to Hun Sen by telephone to request the pardon,'' he said.

Sivarak would be released from jail on Monday following the pardon which was granted on humanitarian grounds. The process was expedited because he did not appeal his conviction.

Sivarak's mother and members of the opposition Puea Thai Party were scheduled to visit Hun Sen, he said.

Sivarak was found guilty by Phnom Penh Municipal Court of stealing Thaksin's flight plan, before his Nov 10 arrival, when he was an employee of the Cambodia Air Traffic Service which manages flights in the country. He then passed the information to Mr Kamrob at the Thai embassy who was later expelled by Cambodia.

It was reported that on Dec 9 Sivarak admitted to his actions in a letter which was handed over to Hun Sen for submission to King Norodom Sihamoni.

Meanwhile, the quick pardon for Mr Sivarak has left the Puea Thai party in an awkward position. The news about Mr Sivarak's freedom came just hours before the party's planned submission of letters for the royal pardon to the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok yesterday.

The party yesterday also submitted a letter to Foreign Ministry calling for a responsibility of the minister Kasit Piromya and Mr Kamrob for allegedly cause the guilty of Mr Sivarak.

Sivarak is a pawn in a wider political game

Abhisit, Kasit, Chavalit, Thaksin, Hun Sen - gaining headlines at the expense of a hitherto unknown Thai engineer

Published: 12/12/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

On Tuesday, Dec 8, a Cambodian court ruled that Thai engineer Sivarak Chutipong was guilty of supplying former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's flight details to the Thai embassy's first secretary in Phnom Penh and sentenced him to seven years in jail with a fine of 10 million riel (100,000 baht).

The court ruled that even though the flight information was not a secret and the technical staff were entitled to know, the information should not have been leaked to the Thai embassy official because it could affect Cambodia's security as Thaksin came to Cambodia as the government's economic adviser as well as a personal adviser to the Cambodian prime minister, noted a Thai Rath writer (prior to yesterday's announcement of a royal pardon).

Even though Sivarak and his lawyer explained to the court that he supplied the information with no ulterior motive and he did not personally know the Thai embassy official, the court deemed that Thaksin maintains a special status in Cambodia and his security was the concern of the Cambodian authority. For this reason, Sivarak's defence could not be justified.

Now that the Cambodian court has given its ruling, there are two options for Sivarak to pursue: to appeal to a higher court to overturn the criminal court's verdict or to accept the court's ruling and seek a royal pardon.

It seems that Sivarak has decided to take the latter option as indicated by his mother who flew to Phnom Penh to hear the court's ruling.

If a royal pardon is sought, normally a convict must serve two years in jail before seeking the pardon. But in a special circumstance the petition for a royal pardon can be submitted in one month. It seems the Foreign Affairs Ministry is ready to act on behalf of the Thai government to request the Cambodian government to petition for a royal pardon on Sivarak's behalf.

However, according to news reports, Mrs Simarak na Nakhon Phanom, Sivarak's mother, insisted she would not seek help from the Foreign Ministry as the Thai government and the Cambodian government did not have friendly relations and she blamed the Thai embassy official for seeking flight information from her son which led to his conviction.

Mrs Simarak would rather seek help from Puea Thai Party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and the real boss of Puea Thai, Thaksin Shinawatra, to act on her son's behalf.

On this issue, the Thai Rath writer thought that Puea Thai and Thaksin were trying to paint the Thai government as attempting to meddle in the internal affairs of the Cambodian government by ordering the embassy staff to obtain Thaksin's flight information. Now the Cambodian court has ruled Sivarak guilty as charged, Thaksin has been successful in discrediting the Thai government.

The writer deemed the issue a political game because it seems Puea Thai knew in advance that Sivarak would be found guilty and that Gen Chavalit was reported to have already signed his name to a request to the Cambodian government to seek a royal pardon for him, as if to demonstrate that the Thai government is powerless in helping a Thai national in trouble in a foreign land.

Other evidence pointed to a political game being played in that Sivarak's defence lawyer provided by the Thai embassy was last week dropped in favour of a lawyer recommended by Puea Thai, as revealed by Mr Sivarak's mother.

All this political manoeuvring shows that Thai politicians are trying to score political points against each other without regard to any decency, even to the point of using a Thai national as a pawn in their political game and involving a foreign country to discredit the Thai government.

This could be seen in the actions of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been blasting both the Thai prime minister and the foreign affairs minister constantly, regarding both as the enemies of Cambodia. Hun Sen even went to the extreme of calling on the Thai government to dissolve the parliament in line with the wishes of his friend Thaksin.

This was the ultimate act of diplomatic transgression, but Hun Sen does not care as long as it benefits him and his friend. So Sivarak is the victim of a political game to win power to rule Thailand, concluded Thai Rath.

Thailand lacks the will to enforce the law

The ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court to affirm the decision of the Administrative Court to halt dozens of investment projects in the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate in Rayong until the government solves the pollution problem was greeted with dismay by both the government and the private sector for affecting the investments and the growth of the country's economy, noted Nualnoi Trirat, a Matichon writer.

Nualnoi did not think too highly of the government's reaction as it was well-known that the pollution problem in Map Ta Phut had been going on for a long time and the conflicts between the industrial plants and the local community periodically popped up but had never been tackled seriously by the government.

The pollution problem in Map Ta Phut, which was affirmed by the Supreme Administrative Court, will make it harder to expand industrial estates in other areas as the surrounding communities fear the government's mechanisms cannot enforce the existing regulations to compel the private sector to abide by pollution standards. The case of Map Ta Phut pointed out that the affected local community had to resort to the Administrative Court to fight against the polluters while the government stood on the sidelines.

The weak, or total lack of, pollution control enforcement by the government reflects the fact that successive governments care more for economic development than the quality of life and the environment. The fact the Map Ta Phut community was successful in taking Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate to court and winning means communities now no longer need to accept the status quo but can fight to protect their health and environment. If this fight spreads to other communities where pollution problems exist, it will mean more industrial projects will be halted and that will surely affect the country's economic development.

During the recent annual Thailand Development Research Institute seminar on Economic Reform for Social Justice, the institute's Duenden Nikhomborirak noted that big businesses with integrated manufacturing, trade and services have very high bargaining power and are monopolistic in nature while the state's enforcement of fair competition during the past 10 years has totally failed as the state's mechanism is influenced by politics and/or dominated by big business.

Nipon Poapongsakorn, the TDRI president, studied the state's farm products support schemes for rice, longan, cassava, rubber, sugar cane and milk and found that for rice, longan, cassava and rubber the state resorted to price pledging schemes by offering higher prices than the prevailing market prices. For sugarcane, the state prescribes a minimum price domestically higher than the global price. For dairy farmers, the state requires that school milk vendors must buy milk from dairy farmers in the same zone as the schools and pasteurised milk factories.

Mr Nipon noted that by intervening in the market mechanisms, economic rent is generated and this surplus benefit often falls into the hands of traders rather than farmers and well-to-do farmers get more benefit than poor farmers.

For this reason, he concluded that the oft-quoted policy that price support schemes benefit poor farmers was only an illusion because most benefits line the pockets of traders, millers and a few large exporters.

TDRI director Somkiat Tangkitvanich studied economic rent obtained by concessions granted by the government to private sector operators, especially telecommunications, radio and TV as creating monopoly or semi-monopoly enterprises that exploit public assets and the nation's resources. This was possible due to collusion between business people, politicians, high-ranking government officials and academics.

Adisorn Isarangkul na Ayudhya studied how influential people obtained economic rent from the state's land and forest. Often, these influential people buy the land from poor farmers, who were allocated land by the state, and then turn it into housing estates, resorts or golf courses.

With the collusion of Land Department officials, the original occupation title deeds can be used to issue permanent land title deeds.

Mr Adisorn also noted that major infrastructures such as the Suvarnabhumi airport, new roads and subways undertaken by the government have increased land values nearby several fold. Often the land belongs to influential people who know in advance the state will invest in certain areas and thus buy property very cheaply from the original land owners, reaping tremendous economic returns.

Nualnoi summarised the TDRI findings that the concentrated wealth among a few from the economic rent is the main factor widening the gap between the haves and have-nots in line with the country's economic growth.

The TDRI conducted an opinion survey of people throughout the country on the issue of economic disparity and found about 40% of respondents believed the poor were poor because they were born poor while 57% believed the rich were rich because they were born rich. They did not say why they felt this way.

Another finding revealed that even though the gap between rich and poor was widening, the majority still accepted the disparity. But looking at the 20% most poor category, the ratio of those who did not accept such a wide gap in wealth was more than those who accepted it. This means the poorest people are beginning to realise they can no longer stand the status quo.

Nualnoi concluded her article saying that once the poor begin to change their attitudes towards accepting their lot, it is not possible that the rich can continue to exploit them unchecked, as in the case of the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate.