Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Cambodian-Thai conflict 'stems from political personality clash'

Published: 22/12/2009

(CAAI News Media)

Pad Supa, a leading businessman and senator in Koh Kong, has a close connection with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. In an excerpt from an interview with Jakkrit Waewkraihong in Trat, Mr Pad aired his views on development in the Cambodian province and the thorny issues that have marred relations between Cambodia and Thailand.

Pad Supa: Abhisit Vejjajiva and Hun Sen ‘don’t understand each other’

- What are the government's development plans for Koh Kong, especially its attempt to make the province a special economic area?

The government has laid out broad ideas, from improving all necessary utilities to facilitating business growth. The province is ideal for development because it borders Thailand and is also close to the sea.

- Would high property prices in Koh Kong or any state rules hinder investment?

Land prices are not as expensive as expected. They soared after the opening of Road 48 [from the Thai border province of Trat to Srey Ampel], speculation about Thaksin Shinawatra's plan to invest there and the discovery of natural gas and oil deposits in overlapping maritime areas between Cambodia and Thailand.

- How realistic is Thaksin's plan to invest in Koh Kong?

There's no progress now. Mr Thaksin has no plans to invest here, but he knows many foreign businessmen and could invite them to invest in Koh Kong and the other provinces.

- Has the fishing concession dispute between Thailand and the Koh Kong authorities been solved?

That problem has ended. We've reopened our waters since Dec 4. In fact, we have just adjusted our conditions on fishing near Koh Kong following the appointment of a new governor [Yuth Pouthang].

So far, we've awarded concessions to 200 Thai fishing boats without charging higher fees.

- Will the continuing conflict between the two countries lead to new problems?

That's an issue between the governments. None of the present problems have anything to do with the ordinary people or businessmen. To be honest, They all seem to be personal problems.

- How long do you think the current problems will last?

It will go on for some time, I think. Abhisit Vejjajiva and Hun Sen have still not understood each other.

After Expelling Uighurs, Cambodia Approves Chinese Investments

Published: December 21, 2009

(CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK — China signed 14 deals with Cambodia on Monday worth approximately $1 billion, two days after Cambodia deported 20 ethnic Uighur asylum seekers under strong pressure from Beijing.

The deportation, in defiance of protests by the United States, the United Nations and human rights groups, came on the day before a visit to Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, by Vice President Xi Jinping of China.

The package of grants and loans was signed at the end of Mr. Xi’s visit. The Cambodian Foreign Ministry quoted Mr. Xi as saying: “It can be said that Sino-Cambodia relations are a model of friendly cooperation.”

The exact value of the agreements was not announced, but the chief government spokesman, Khieu Kanharith, said they were worth $1.2 billion. “China has thanked the government of Cambodia for assisting in sending back these people,” he said. “According to Chinese law, these people are criminals.”

Members of a Turkic-speaking ethnic minority living mostly in western China, the 20 Uighurs said they were fleeing persecution in a crackdown that followed riots in which the Chinese government said at least 197 people were killed.

Hundreds of Uighurs have been detained since then and several people have been executed for involvement in the rioting. At least 43 Uighur men have disappeared, according to Human Rights Watch.

Twenty-two Uighurs entered Cambodia about a month ago, aided by a Christian group that has helped North Koreans fleeing their country. Two of the Uighurs have disappeared, the Cambodian government said.

Before being deported, several of the asylum seekers told the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Cambodia that they feared long jail terms or even the death penalty, according to statements reported by The Associated Press. In the statements, which had been provided to the United Nations in support of asylum applications, the Uighurs described chaotic and bloody scenes during the rioting.

“If I am returned to China, I am sure that I will be sentenced to life imprisonment or the death penalty for my involvement in the Urumqi riots,” said a 29-year-old man.

Another man, a 27-year-old teacher, said: “I can tell the world what is happening to Uighur people, and the Chinese authorities do not want this. If returned, I am certain I would be sent to prison.”

China is Cambodia’s leading investor, committing hundreds of millions of dollars for projects including dams, roads and a headquarters for the government Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh. In October, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China met Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Sen, in Sichuan, China, and concluded a deal worth $853 million.

China thanks Cambodia for expulsions

(CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Visiting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping thanked Cambodia for deporting 20 Muslim asylum-seekers while handing the country $1.2 billion in aid, the government spokesman said.

The 20 ethnic Uighurs deported Saturday were sought by China in connection with violent anti-government protests. Human rights activists are concerned that they will face persecution in China.

The United States said Sunday it was "deeply disturbed" by the forcible deportations. State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said the incident would affect Cambodia's relationship with the United States and its international standing.

"China thanked the government of Cambodia for assistance in sending back those people (Uighurs) to China because under Chinese law these people are criminals. This represents cooperation by the two sides," Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said after a meeting Monday between the Chinese leader and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

He said that the 14 agreements totalled $1.2 billion in grants and loans, ranging from Chinese help in building roads to repairing Buddhist temples. Earlier, China had provided Cambodia with $930 million in loans and other aid.

China is key ally and donor to impoverished Cambodia.

Cambodia said it was expelling the Uighurs because they had illegally entered the country.

Xi's trip to Cambodia is seen as significant because he is widely considered the leading contender to eventually succeed President Hu Jintao. It is his last stop on a four-nation Asian tour that also included Japan, South Korea and Myanmar.

While economic powerhouses Japan and South Korea are rivals to China, Myanmar and Cambodia are two of Southeast Asia's poorest countries, where China uses its wealth to spread its influence.

Beijing is the closest and most powerful ally of military-ruled Myanmar, and has major investments in the country, which is shunned by the West because of its failure to restore democratic rule.

Cambodia is nominally more democratic than Myanmar, but Hun Sen is an autocratic ruler who uses his ties with China as a balance against dependency on Western nations.

Lawyers reach out to those in need


By Michael Rappaport
December 25 2009 issue

(CAAI News Media)

At the annual office Christmas party at Bennett Gastle P.C. in Toronto on Dec. 3, 2007, the lawyers and staff signed a statement of principles that would give rise to the law firm’s commitment to the Cambodian Law Students Project.

Charles Gastle, an international trade lawyer and name partner at the firm and adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, was struck by the poverty he witnessed while advising the Kingdom of Cambodia’s Ministry of Commerce on competition and intellectual property laws and lecturing on law at the Royal University for Law and Economics (RULE) in the capital city Phnom Penh, three years ago.

At the university Gastle saw students so poor that they slept in a ditch under the school. Still conditions have improved immeasurably since the devastating three-decade long civil war ended in 1991, according to Gastle. During the civil war the Khmer Rouge executed the majority of the country’s lawyers. In 2009, Cambodia only had 538 practising lawyers to serve a population of 14-million people.

Returning to Toronto, Gastle discussed the plight of students in Cambodia with his colleagues at Bennett Gastle. In particular, he bemoaned the lack of opportunity for younger women who were denied the opportunity to obtain a higher education. Gastle and his partner, Elizabeth Bennett-Martin, who practises insurance defence, resolved to create a scholarship program to help young women from rural provinces in Cambodia attend law school. Tan Try, a law student form Cambodia who was completing an internship at Bennett Gastle offered to administer the scholarship program when he returned home.

When Gastle and Bennett-Martin founded Bennett Gastle in June 2005, they were hoping for more control over their lives and work and had no inkling they would be immersed in international charitable ventures. Currently, Bennett Gastle is paying for the complete university education of five girls from rural Cambodia with an additional three students funded by the friends of Bennett Gastle. The young women attend RULE as part of a broader group of 25 female law students sponsored by international donations.

This past autumn, Gastle and Bennett-Martin visited Phnom Penh to meet with some of the students they sponsored. According to Bennett-Martin, one of the students who was raised in a grass hut in a rural province had never been inside a hotel before or ridden an elevator.

The 25 female students at RULE sleep on mats in a residence without furniture and only hot-plates to cook their meals. Gastle and Bennett-Martin bought two computers and software for the students and paid for Internet access.

Each time Gastle visits Cambodia he lugs suitcases filled with legal text books. The organization that Gastle established to support the law school’s library, 'Textbooks for RULE,' has donated over $5,000 worth of textbooks to date. The library’s shelves were practically bare the first time Gastle taught at RULE. 'In Canada many books sit on shelves unused. In Cambodia every book is shared and passed around,' Gastle says.

Gastle says that when he’s at his computer and receives an e-mail from one of the Cambodian
students he sponsors it 'really brightens the day.' For Bennett-Martin helping out students in Cambodia has inspired her to try to do more good work. Currently she is in the process of establishing a non-profit charitable organization, Cambodian Legal Education for Women (C.L.E.W.), whose goal is to support 30 female law students in Cambodia each year.

Hun Sen only hurting himself with his vitriol


Sat, Dec 19, 2009
The Nation/Asia News Network

(CAAI News Media)

With their respective strategies already standing in stark contrast, Abhisit Vejjajiva and Hun Sen can only drift even farther apart in a diplomatic showdown unseen in the history of Asean.

Certainly, Hun Sen's latest swipes at the Bangkok government, which he practically cursed to burn in hell, will not help.

The Cambodian leader has crossed every line that existed. Starting with appointing a convicted Thai politician as his country's economic adviser, he then expelled a Thai diplomat and arrested another Thai citizen after apparently tapping their phones, taunted Abhisit on a daily basis, called for an uprising by the red shirts and claimed Thailand was set to breach Cambodian sovereignty in a bid to destroy Thaksin Shinawatra.

Abhisit, on the other hand, has not crossed a single line. The recall of the Thai ambassador was an appropriate response after Phnom Penh slapped Bangkok in the face with Thaksin's appointment. In the ensuing war of words, most of the salvos have been fired from Cambodia.

The latest attacks have confirmed Hun Sen's growing hatred. He suggested ties could never be normalised until the Democrat Party is out of power, followed by an unmistakable call for political upheaval in Thailand.

Asean has never experienced anything like it, and every day Hun Sen provides the regional grouping with a new test of its resolve not to get too close to the fray.

"The dispute is one thing, but the most important thing is that the incident not pose a risk to Asean solidarity," Tommy Koh, chairman of the grouping's task force, was quoted as saying by Xinhua News Agency.

He said Asean members had attempted to broker a resolution to the conflict.

"I've asked my colleagues how they would have felt if [a neighbouring country] had done to us what Hun Sen did to Thailand," said one Asean diplomat even before the Thai-Cambodian conflict deteriorated into a spy farce and relations sank to new lows.

An expert on Asean affairs said: "No other Asean leader in the grouping's long history has ever called for the destruction of a neighbouring government. This is beyond everything we have experienced."

The expert believes Thailand and Abhisit will continue to be on the defensive, not because there is nothing else they can do, but because Hun Sen seems to be hurting himself as much as the Thai government.

Speaking at a scholarship ceremony at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, Hun Sen held forth on the diplomatic fallout that has followed in the wake of fugitive Thaksin's recent visits to Cambodia.

"I will wait to see the establishment of a new government in Thailand, so that they will send back their ambassador," Hun Sen said. "You accuse us of abusing the Thai justice system, but you forget to mention that you are invading Cambodian territory."

Hun Sen also defended the arrest of Sivarak Chutipong, a 31-year-old Thai engineer who received a prison sentence for leaking Thaksin's flight schedule to the Thai Embassy last month and was subsequently pardoned last week. He claimed that if Sivarak had not been arrested in time, "then for sure at this time, at this hour, Thaksin would be dead or jailed in a Thai prison".

One piece of irony is that, according to the Asean expert, while Hun Sen has been criticising Thailand's "dictatorial" treatment of Thaksin, no one in Cambodia has dared to tell the Phnom Penh leader that his mad-dog diplomacy is way out of control.

Except, that is, for usually unheeded opposition voices. Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann accused Hun Sen of playing political games in his dealings with Thailand and questioned the necessity of Thaksin's controversial appointment as a government economic adviser.

Yim Sovann also observed what should be obvious to Hun Sen: Thaksin has yet to give one single piece of economic advice to Cambodia.

The ousted Thai leader did speak to officials at the Council for the Development of Cambodia on Wednesday about tourism and foreign investment, but Yim Sovann said the ousted Thai leader's counsel had thus far not been particularly revelatory.

"I have ... noticed that what Thaksin advises the government of Cambodia is not different from what our Cambodian economic experts and what our MPs from the opposition party advise," he said.

Most observers are certain about one thing: it is not friendship that made Thaksin travel to Cambodia and give it economic advice or made Hun Sen stick his neck out for the Thai fugitive. This marriage is seemingly based purely on political and business interests, meaning it could turn sour at any time.

If that happens, Thaksin should be afraid. In fact, he should be very afraid.

Thaksin to put on his website FM's classified letter

Mon, December 21, 2009

(CAAI News Media)

Ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra twittered on Monday, saying he would upload the Foreign Ministry's classified letter to his website for the public to read Tuesday.

"I will upload it to the website so people can read to the content and know that there really are power maniacs,'' he said.

Thaksin was referring to a FM's letter to the premier concerning how the government should handle Thaksin.

Pheu Thai Party party list MP Jatuporn Prompan had claimed that the letter suggested that Thaksin should be assassinated.

Abhisit government denied the claim.

The government also rejected Jatuporn's claims that the report mentioned about declaring war on Cambodia and there had been interference in the justice system by a person with political clout outside the government.

Phnom Penh Still Lacks School Buildings in 2010 – Monday, 21.12.2009


Posted on 21 December 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 644

(CAAI News Media)

“Officials of the Department of Education, Youth, and Sports of Phnom Penh said that in 2010, Phnom Penh lacks hundreds of classrooms for students, both at primary and secondary levels.

“The deputy head of the Phnom Department of Education, Youth, and Sports, Mr. Em Ham Khuon, said on 18 December 2009 that at present, there are 22 lower secondary schools and 25 high schools in Phnom Penh. Most school do not have sufficient classrooms; secondary schools lack 110 rooms, and only 8 of the 25 high schools lack 80 rooms, while primary schools lack about 100 rooms.

“Mr. Hem Ham Khuon added that at primary schools, there are not so many problems, as the Japanese government helped to build 11 buildings with 224 classrooms in 2005 and in 2007. In 2010, the Japanese government plans to help to construct 7 more buildings with 96 classrooms, spending approximately US$5,330,000 for 7 primary schools in Phnom Penh.

“Mr. Em Ham Khuon went on to say that the shortage of classrooms at the secondary level results from the increasing number of students, and it is also because most lower secondary schools are located together with primary schools, and some high schools were formed through the expansion of lower secondary schools.

“The lack of classrooms gravely affects the students’ education.

“Mr. Em Ham Khuon said that due to the lack of classrooms, some schools are forced to put up to 50 or 60 students into one classroom, beyond the standard number students in one classroom set by the Ministry of Education at 40 to 45 students. That means students have to be squeezed into the rooms. At some schools, there are three shifts per day: the first shift from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.; the second shift from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; and the third shift from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. He emphasized that the lack of classrooms affects also the curriculum of the Ministry of Education. According to the curriculum of the Ministry, in one week, there should be 34 to 36 sessions [with 45 minutes per session], but at present, due to the lack of classrooms, at some schools, there are only 27 to 28 sessions, and each school has to encourage teachers to teach more to catch up with the curriculum of the Ministry.

“Educational analysts suggested that if the Ministry of Education does not solve the lack of classrooms soon, the quality of education will deteriorate, because there are up to 50 or 60 students in one classroom, leading to disorder and making it difficult for teachers to teach, and for students to gain knowledge. When some schools try to speed up teaching the students to catch up with the curriculum of the Ministry of Education, that leads to neglecting the quality of education – they just manage to catch up with the curriculum and do not care whether students can gain anything from it or not.

“Mr. Em Ham Khuon called on the leaders of the government, on national and international organizations, and on generous people to donate funds for the construction of school buildings, as long as there is a lack of classrooms, in order to help to foster the education for students as well as to achieve a better quality of education.”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #2129, 20-21.12.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 21 December 2009

Deportation of Uighur Asylum Seekers Condemned

By Heng Reaksmey and Chun Sakada VOA Khmer,
Original report from Phnom Penh
21 December 2009

(CAAI News Media)
The US joined rights groups on Monday in condemning the forced return to China of 20 Uighur asylum seekers over the weekend.

The Muslim Uighurs had fled after anti-Chinese riots in their home province of Xinjiang in July, but Chinese officials had said they should be returned to face criminal charges.

The US condemned the deportation, which occurred before members’ asylum status could be assessed by the UN’s refugee office in Phnom Penh and on the eve of a visit by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping.

The US State Department said in a statement the forced return would affect Cambodia’s relationship with the US and its international standing.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Kuy Kuong said the move had been conducted under Cambodia’s constitution.

Xi arrived in Cambodia on Sunday to lead a high-level delegation to discuss cooperation between the two nations and “promote common development.”

“The good-neighborly relations between China and Cambodia are in the interests of the two peoples and benefit the peace, stability and prosperity in the region," Xi told the Chinese news agency Xinua on his arrival in Siem Reap.

Tribunal Seeks More Than $90 Million for Two Years

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
21 December 2009

(CAAI News Media)

Administrators for the Khmer Rouge tribunal are looking for an additional $93.3 million, to cover operations for the next two years, but donors have not immediately made pledges, officials from the UN and donor countries say.

The tribunal has completed the trial of prison chief Kaing Kek Iev, or Duch, despite nagging allegations of corruption and periods of under-funding. It is now moving toward the joint trial of four senior leaders.

A tribunal delegation led by chief administrator Tony Kranh and his deputy, Knut Rosanhaug, ended a week in New York Friday, where they had lobbied donors in meetings that demonstrated the progress of the court.

The court is seeking $46 million for 2010 and $47.3 million for 2011. Of that the UN component was budgeted at $34.5 million and $35.6 million, leaving $11.5 million and $11.8 million per year for the Cambodian side of the court.

A Japanese official at the UN told VOA Khmer the Permanent Mission there had received a budget proposal for 2010 and 2011 and was now considering it.

“Japan welcomes the progress achieved in Case 001 [for Duch],” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Around 20 countries took part in meetings at the UN headquarters in New York, but sources close to the proceedings said only a few had pledged any funding, with others expected to decide soon after the New Year holiday.

A UN spokesman for the tribunal in Phnom Penh, Lars Olsen, said donors had received the budget proposal.

“The donors expressed strong support for the [tribunal], so we are optimistic regarding the continuation of international support for donations,” he said.

The UN-backed court has come under criticism in recent months for apparent political interference, as six senior officials for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party have refused to comply with summonses from investigating judge Marcel Lemonde.

Prime Minister Hun Sen meanwhile has warned that further indictments such as five now under consideration could destabilize the country.

However, a tribunal statement said Friday a case against five more suspects, which were recommended by a UN prosecutor earlier this year, were part of the budget request.

A US State Department official said Friday the US was considering more funding for the court but is awaiting approval of Congress for the 2010 money. The tribunal had reached a “milestone,” the official said, in establishing an independent counselor to address corruption allegations and in successfully putting Duch on trial for atrocity crimes.

Another diplomat said the world financial crisis would weigh on countries as they decided whether and how much to fund the court.

Observers say the tribunal will not be allowed to fail by the UN, donors and Cambodia, especially now that it has begun to make progress.

Khmer Krom Group Urges More Government Support

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
21 December 2009

(CAAI News Media)

An overseas group of advocates has requested the government improve its support for the Khmer Kampuchea Krom in both Cambodia and Vietnam.

“They should send professional teachers and books from Cambodia to teach our Khmer Krom in Vietnam,” said Thach Ngoc Thach, head of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation, which is based in New Jersey.

“They should celebrate Buddhist ceremonies for our Khmer Krom, so that they learn about Cambodian culture, civilization and religion, because we are the same nation,” he told VOA Khmer at the end of the organization’s annual meeting, in California.

“The Cambodian government has made it easy for the Vietnamese government to support their people in Cambodia,” he said. “Such as building schools and some other things.”

Khmer Krom in Vietnam do not learn their native Khmer in school, but instead must learn at pagodas during holidays, advocates say.

“They haven’t received enough Cambodian literature training,” said Thach Prey Chea Koeun, a 29-year-old monk from Vietnam, who now lives in Phnom Penh. “I think in the future, the younger generation of Khmer Krom people could forget the Cambodian national literature. They won’t know about their roots and the basics of Khmer. I’m afraid that the Khmer Krom youth can easily become Vietnamese.”

The Khmer Krom live in today’s southern Vietnam, which once belonged to Cambodia.

Vietnam has an estimated 456 Khmer Krom pagodas, each playing a role in supporting Cambodian culture and literature. As many as 8 million Khmer Krom live in southern Vietnam, with up to 300,000 more living in Cambodia, according to the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation.

A lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, Ngoun Nhel, who is also the vice president of the National Assembly, said the government would likely review a formal request to aid the Khmer Krom.

The Khmer Kampuchia Krom Federation was established in 1999 in the US and has worked to promote issues for the group with the UN and US.

Thach Ngoc Thach said a main goal of the organization is to assure the “Cambodian people and the Cambodian government” that the group is not a danger to the country. In addition, he said, “we want the Khmer Krom people in Vietnam to know that they are the owners of the land, and they have full rights to live on their lands.”

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Kuy Kuong told VOA Khmer that the government afforded the Khmer Krom the same rights and freedoms as the general public.

“Our government considers Khmer Krom people who have moved to live in Cambodia as Cambodian,” he said. “They have the same protection, the same rights and the same equality before the law as Cambodian citizens.”

Thaksin drags Hun Sen into a new treacherous game

By Sopon Onkgara
The Nation
Published on December 22, 2009

(CAAI News Media)

This is more than just a simple patriot game. For the first time in Thailand's history, we are witnessing anti-government elements declaring publicly that they intend to topple the state and revered institutions. They do not even wince when branded as traitors.

What's more, Cambodia has become more than a thorn in the side of Thailand. The country's leader, Hun Sen, provides shelter for Thaksin Shinawatra, ignoring Thailand's call for extradition and a request through Interpol for his capture.

The elements comprise the Pheu Thai Party, its remnants of ex-MPs from two party dissolutions, the red shirts and their cohorts, including retired army officers engaged in political activities in exchange for income from the wealthy fugitive.

They plan an all-out battle to oust the Abhisit government next month, abolish the present Constitution, do away with the monarchy, and bring Thaksin back under full amnesty together with a return of his assets currently frozen by the state.

Violence cannot be ruled out. The red shirts are dreaded for their unruly behaviour and are spoiling for blood. They staged a riot in April this year in a bid to pave the way for Thaksin's homecoming. The non-lethal crackdown by troops under an emergency decree restored peace.

Those culprits responsible for the violence in the city have yet to face charges and trial. The leniency and complacency of the government have emboldened the red shirts and Thaksin to continue destabilising the state through media, threats and treacherous acts - with full cooperation from Hun Sen.

Traitors under Thaksin's tutelage no longer have the shame to hide their acts or themselves. In all sorts of campaigns, the Thaksin loyalists play a hypocritical game, with total disregard for national security.

Thaksin has regained confidence after taking refuge in Phnom Penh to plot against his home country. Hun Sen has become a tyrant oblivious to the echelons of power in his country. The despot is arrogant enough that he needs no consultation with the lower rungs of the political and military leadership since heading on the collision course with Thailand.

Hun Sen's belligerent and despicable behaviour has caused serious harm to Cambodian interests. The country loses income from tourism, border casinos, trade, and the chance to register the Preah Vihear temple ruins with the World Heritage Organisation, and the exploitation of offshore petroleum deposits. This must have caused some degree of resentment from Cambodian people, businesses and interest groups. But they cannot move against Hun Sen.

Hun Sen has blatantly interfered in the internal affairs of Thailand, given safe haven to Thaksin, and engaged in activities considered as serious threats that have yet to be responded to fully by the Abhisit government. So far, there has been periodic verbal provocation by Hun Sen, with some lukewarm reaction from the Thai government.

The Cambodian tyrant has uttered aloud that he will not be happy as long as Thailand has Abhisit as prime minister and Kasit Piromya as foreign minister. This open, hostile act must be viewed by fellow Asean countries with unease, if not deep concern.

As the conflict edges close to possible confrontation, it can be seen that the problem exists between Hun Sen, Thaksin and the people of Thailand, while the Cambodian people have no part in the crisis, as it only undermines their livelihood. Yet, those living in the hinterland with no broad access to news and information believe that what Hun Sen has been doing is in the national interest.

Hun Sen's stake lies with Thaksin's success in regaining political power through his continuing instigation of the red shirts to go all out in their protest rallies expected next month. It's also Thaksin's last-ditch attempt and, mostly likely, his last hurrah before his force is eventually subdued. He is under the illusion that rural support remains extensive.

Not anymore. His hideous plan to join hands with ex-communist guerrillas to end the monarchy has not fooled the rural people, while many red shirts have also abandoned the anti-monarchy campaign now that the Thaksin elements have shown their true colours and treacherous activities.

Abhisit still takes things in stride. Instead of launching campaigns to educate the public, especially the rural grassroots, those responsible for national security and the state-owned media remain complacent, putting their faith only in sheer luck, ignoring prepared responsive measures.

The nation is in dire straits due mainly to the ignorance and incompetence of those in charge of security affairs, and lack of cooperation from the police, while military leaders have been passive in countering the anti-monarchy campaign.

Maybe they believe that luck will be on their side if Thaksin and his miscreants create new havoc. The people don't like what is happening because too much damage has been done to the country with nobody showing full accountability.

China boosts Cambodia aid after Uighurs deported

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (left) held talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen

Uighurs have long complained of repression under Chinese rule

Clashes between Xinjiang's Uighurs and China's majority Han ethnic group in July left nearly 200 dead

(CAAI News Media)

By Suy Se (AFP)

PHNOM PENH — China signed pacts worth one billion dollars in aid to Cambodia Monday and thanked Phnom Penh for its controversial decision to deport a group of Uighurs seeking refuge back to Chinese soil.

The 20 Muslim Uighurs, who had fled the far western Xinjiang region after unrest erupted there in July, were expelled late Saturday as they were seeking asylum in the Cambodian capital, saying they risked torture in China.

Phnom Penh said the group, which Beijing had labelled as "criminals", was expelled in line with domestic law.

But the US, the European Union, the UN and rights groups deplored the move as an apparent breach of an international convention on refugees.

In a statement, the Swedish EU presidency said it was "deeply concerned" about Phnom Penh's action, adding that it showed "a worrying disregard for Cambodia's obligations under international law".

The decision came ahead of a three-day visit by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who held talks Monday with Prime Minister Hun Sen and witnessed the signing of 14 bilateral agreements.

The pacts were worth 1.2 billion dollars in aid and loans to Cambodia, according to government spokesman Khieu Kanharith, who said the two countries agreed to strengthen their relations in all fields.

China and Cambodia have long had close relations, with China previously giving 930 million dollars in aid and loans to the impoverished Southeast Asian nation since 1992, Khieu Kanharith said.

"China has thanked the government of Cambodia for assisting in sending back these people," he said of the Uighurs' deportation. "According to Chinese law, these people are criminals."

Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer said the deportation reflected Beijing's growing clout in the region, saying Phnom Penh's decision was "no doubt influenced by enormous Chinese pressure, backed by hundreds of millions of dollars in aid".

"Governments of countries neighbouring China are reluctant to take any action that would displease Chinese authorities, leaving Uighurs nowhere to flee," Kadeer said.

Clashes between Xinjiang's Uighurs and China's majority Han ethnic group in July left nearly 200 dead and 1,600 injured, according to official tolls.

The violence erupted when Uighurs -- who have long complained of repression under Chinese rule -- attacked members of China's Han ethnic majority. In the days following, mobs of Han roamed the streets seeking revenge.

Last month, nine people were executed for their roles in the violence.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a fax sent to AFP that China had received the group of 20 from Cambodia "in accordance with routine practice".

"China resolutely opposes and cracks down hard on illegal border crossing activities and advocates greater cooperation among the international community to work together to combat crime," Jiang said.

Christophe Peschoux, a representative of the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Monday he was "dismayed" by the deportation.

He said Cambodian authorities were "obviously under pressure" when they overturned initially strong assurances that they considered the Uighurs asylum seekers and would complete assessments to see if they were of refugee status.

"This deportation is all the more disturbing in a country that has known massive persecution during the wars and the Khmer rouge regime, and which knows all too well the price and value of refugee protection," he said.

UN refugee agency deplores forced return of Uighur asylum-seekers from Cambodia

(CAAI News Media)

21 December 2009 – The United Nations refugee agency has voiced deep distress at the forcible return of 20 ethnic Uighurs from China who had filed claims for asylum in Cambodia but whose cases had not yet been heard, saying it was part of a disturbing increase worldwide in such cases.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the forced return of the asylum-seekers on Saturday took place a day after the agency had communicated its concern to the Cambodian Government about the deportations.

“States are bound by the principle of non-refoulement, which applies to both those recognized as refugees and those seeking asylum,” UNHCR said in a press release issued in Geneva.

“The forced return of asylum-seekers without a full examination of their asylum claims is a serious breach of international refugee law.”

UNHCR stressed that “a disturbing pattern of such cases is increasingly evident around the world.”

Deported Uighurs told UN of fears of China return

In this Wednesday, July 15, 2009 photo, a Uighur ethnic minority man looks at a poster that reads "Don't forget the party's kindness. Don't forget the warmth of the motherland. Don't forget the struggles of each minority group" in the town's market Bazaar in the city of Hotan, China, . A propaganda campaign to promote ethnic unity by the Han Chinese is in full throttle . The message "We all belong to the same family" is falling flat among Uighurs in this former caravan stop on the edge of the Taklamakan desert, far from last week's ethnic rioting. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel)

(CAAI News Media)


BEIJING — Ethnic Uighur asylum-seekers forcibly repatriated over the weekend had warned the U.N. refugee agency they feared long jail terms or even the death penalty if they were sent back to China, according to statements seen Monday by The Associated Press.

The 20 Uighur Muslims had fled to Cambodia in search of asylum after witnessing and documenting violent ethnic riots in the restive western Chinese region of Xinjiang this summer that left nearly 200 dead. They were put on a plane from Phnom Penh to Beijing on Saturday under heavy pressure from China, despite strong protests from the U.S. and the United Nations.

China has called the Uighurs suspected criminals, and on Monday defended the forced returns, saying it was in line with immigration law.

"The Chinese side received the above-mentioned people according to usual practice," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a faxed statement. Jiang refused to say where the Uighurs are being held and whether they had been charged with any crime.

Cambodia said it expelled the Uighurs because they had illegally entered the country. It has since been publicly censured by the U.S., which warned the deportations could hurt their bilateral relations.

But it may have helped cement Cambodia's ties with China, a key ally and major donor to the impoverished Southeast Asian nation. On Monday, China signed over $1.2 billion in aid to Cambodia during a visit there by Vice President Xi Jinping. The assistance, including 14 agreements for grants and loans, ranges from help in building roads to repairing Buddhist temples.

Several of the Uighurs had told the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, in Cambodia, that they feared lengthy imprisonment or even the death penalty if they were returned to China because they had been involved in the summer's ethnic unrest.

Their written statements, which had been provided to the U.N. to support their asylum applications, were obtained independently by The AP Monday. Their names are not being published for fear of retaliation by the government. The statements describe the bloodshed that broke out after security forces cracked down on protesting Uighurs. The unrest, in which Uighurs also clashed with ethnic Han Chinese residents, was widely regarded as the worst ethnic violence in the region for decades.

One man, a 29-year-old from Kashgar, said he had taken photos and videos of the chaos on July 5 in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi. He told of watching and filming from a roof at night as military police clashed with and shot at protesters, and Uighurs fought back with rocks. He said he saw bloodied bodies in the streets.

"I felt like I was in a battlefield. Looking down at the streets full of Uighur bodies, I thought that I was going to die," he said in his statement.

Four days later, he met a foreign reporter on the streets and agreed to turn over the photographs and video footage.

"If I am returned to China, I am sure that I will be sentenced to life imprisonment or the death penalty for my involvement in the Urumqi riots," he said in his statement.

Another 29-year-old witness, from Aksu, who had sold cell phones for a living, said he had joined some 300 protesters in the main square before hundreds of police arrived and began beating them.

"I heard shots fired and became very scared ... The next morning, I went into the street after praying. I saw blood on the streets," he said in his statement.

A third man, a 27-year-old teacher from Aksu, said that before the summer unrest he had been pressed to act as an informant by state security officials who wanted to know if his students were anti-Chinese. They asked him to monitor Uighur communist Web sites. He spent more than a year being tortured and beaten in a re-education camp.

"I can tell the world what is happening to Uighur people and the Chinese authorities do not want this. If returned, I am certain I would be sent to prison," he wrote in his statement.

The group of Uighurs had made the journey from China's far west through to Vietnam and then Cambodia with the help of a network of missionary groups. Two Uighurs fled before the group was forced to return on a special plane sent to Phnom Penh Saturday.

The European Union said Monday it was "deeply concerned" about Cambodia's decision to return the group of Uighurs to China and urged Beijing to respect the rights of the returnees.

"The (Cambodian) government's action shows a worrying disregard for Cambodia's obligations under international law, as well as for specific undertakings given to UNHCR in this case," said a statement from the EU's Swedish presidency.

Earlier, the United States voiced similar concerns, while human rights groups say they fear the Uighurs will be harshly persecuted.

Overseas Uighur groups say Uighurs in China have been rounded up in mass detentions since the summer's violence. China has handed down at least 17 death sentences over the rioting.

Associated Press Writer Isolda Morillo in Beijing contributed to this report.

China, Cambodia agree to deepen cooperation


(CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- China will make joint efforts with Cambodia to achieve a win-win cooperation, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping said Monday.

"Furthering relations with Cambodia has long been China's consistent policy," Xi told Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen during talks.

Visiting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (R) and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (L) review the guard of honor during a welcoming ceremony in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Dec. 21, 2009. (Xinhua/Ma Zhancheng)

Hailing the traditional friendship fostered by the leaders of the old generation of the two countries, Xi said China and Cambodia have maintained political trust and fruitful cooperation and support each other in international and regional affairs.

He called China-Cambodia relations "a good example of sincere cooperation between countries with different social systems."

Visiting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (R2) and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (L2) hold talks in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Dec. 21, 2009. (Xinhua/Ma Zhancheng)

Xi put forward a four-point proposal to cement relations with Cambodia, including keeping high-level contacts, strengthening exchanges on country governance, deepening economic and trade cooperation and promoting coordination in international and regional affairs.

Xi said the free trade zone between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) would be completed in 2010, and China and Cambodia should take the chance to push for stable and balanced growth in their bilateral trade.

Hun Sen said he was happy to meet with Chinese leaders for the first time in the new government building, which was constructed with China's assistance and has served as an embodiment of the friendliness between the two countries.

Visiting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (L, front) shakes hands with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (R2) during a signing ceremony of the two country's mutually-beneficial cooperation documents in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Dec. 21, 2009. (Xinhua/Ma Zhancheng)

He spoke highly of China's development and its contribution to neighboring countries' progress and expressed gratitude for China's long-term support for Cambodia's development.

Hun Sen said Cambodia would strengthen cooperation with China in the political, trade, cultural, tourism and security fields and pledged the country's adherence to the one-China policy.

After their talks, the two leaders attended a signing ceremony for a deal on China's preferential loan to Cambodia.

Xi also presented a wreath to the independence monument in Phnom Penh on Monday.

Editor: Mu Xuequan

China pledges another $1.2 billion US for Cambodia- minister

Monday, 21 December 2009 13:01 DAP-NEWS/ Ek Madra

(CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 21, 2009 – China announced on Monday to give another $1.2 billion in grant aid and loans for Cambodia to develop own nation, whose infrastructures were devastated by wars, said the information minister Khieu Kanharith.

The pledge was made in the bilateral meeting between the Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen and China’s Vice President Xi Jingping who is visiting this impoverished Southeast Asian nation this week.

His Excellency Kahnarith also said that the latest aid from China on Monday of $1.2 billion making the total aid package of $2.23 billion including Cambodia has already received $930 from China since 1992.

“China’s assistance enables Cambodia to stand on its own of independency as a sovereign state,” Kanharith told a news conference after the meeting at the Council of Minister.

China, who is Cambodia’s biggest donor, said Beijing continues to assist Cambodia especially in the area of trades, agriculture and tourism—which are the country’s backbone economies, he said.

The Vice President Xi Jingping is pleased with the Cambodia’s developments over the years and said Cambodia has been playing a key role in term of China-ASEAN context, said Kanharith.

Cambodia’s growth hit double digits in the period 2005- 2007.

In response, Prime Minister Hun Sen thanked Xi Jingping for his 20-22 December’s visit during which both sides also signed 14 relevant documents on the cooperation.

Among those are: the exchange notes of the construction project of new office buildings for the Senate, restoration for Takeo temple, economic and technical cooperation, concessional loans for road constructions as well as the framework agreement on transport and infrastructure cooperation.

Cambodia’s infrastructures were destroyed by the civil war started in 1970s. The war did not end until 1998.

China has provided Cambodia with the duty free of 418 items for exporting to China’s markets.
“China wants us to export more products to their country, but to do that we need Chinese investors come to invest in our country as well,” said Kahnarith.

China is also the Cambodia’s biggest foreign direct investment (FDI) and has invested over $1 billion in 2007, according to the Cambodia’s investment agency report.

Both sides also agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation mainly in both politically and economically.

“We will increase their exchange visiting program to each other, so that they could exchange views in many sectors for the benefit of the two countries,” he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen told China’s Vice President Xi Jinping in the meeting that “the visit shows is another contribution to strengthen the friendly relationship of the two countries as partnership.”

Vietnam - Party chief wraps up Cambodia visit

(CAAI News Media)

Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh wrapped up his official friendly visit to Cambodia on Dec. 19.

Before leaving the neighbouring country, the party chief met with the staff of the Vietnamese Consulate General and representatives of the overseas Vietnamese community in Preah Sihanouk province.

Manh and his entourage also laid a floral tribute to Vietnamese war fallen combatants at a monument in Preah Sihanouk province and visited the Sihanoukville international seaport.

The same day, Vietnam and Cambodia issued a joint statement, agreeing to intensify cooperation in various fields.

The two sides placed importance on their economic cooperation, applauding the signing of cooperative agreements in aviation, rubber tree planting, electricity and petroleum.

They agreed to intensify cooperation in combating cross-border crimes and illegal immigration, reaffirming their policies of not allowing any reactionary force to use one’s territory to threaten security of the other.

The two countries will continue working together in searching, exhuming and repatriating remains of Vietnamese volunteer soldiers who fell in Cambodia.

Both sides are determined to complete the land border demarcation and the planting of border markers by the end of 2012 so as to build the shared borderline into the one of peace, friendship, cooperation and sustainable development.

The two countries pledged to further work closely together to raise the awareness of inhabitants in border areas on the agreements and regulations relating to the common borderline.

They reached a consensus on continuously providing favourable conditions and equal treatments for Vietnamese and Cambodian expatriates as well as foreign expatriates living in their countries.

Vietnam and Cambodia agreed to enhance close cooperation with Laos and other countries in developing the Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia Development Triangle into an area of peace, security and prosperity.

They also agreed to boost bilateral cooperation and cooperation with other partners within the framework of the Greater Mekong Sub-region cooperation and development for environmental protection and rational use of the water resource of the Mekong river.

The two countries pledged to continue to join efforts of other regional countries in making Southeast Asia a region of peace, cooperation, and prosperous development, and increase coordination at other regional and international forums.

China ready to enhance relations with Cambodia as US fumes

Dec 21, 2009

(CAAI News Media)

Phnom Penh - Visiting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping on Monday talked of enhanced relations with Cambodia, days after the Phnom Penh government expelled 20 Uighur asylum seekers sparking outrage among human rights groups and the US government.

In talks with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Xi said China was willing to enhance cooperation with Cambodia in various fields and push bilateral relations to a higher level so as to bring more benefits to the two peoples, officials said.

For its part, Cambodia was willing to enhance all-round cooperation with China, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said.

Phnom Penh demonstrated that willingness to oblige Beijing when it deported 20 Uighur asylum seekers back to China on Saturday night, the eve of Xi's arrival.

The deportation outraged the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, human rights groups and the US embassy in Phnom Penh.

'On December 19, the Royal Government of Cambodia, at the request of China, forcibly removed a group of 20 Uighur asylum seekers back to China in apparent violation of Cambodia's international obligations,' the US embassy said in a statement released in Phnom Penh.

It expressed concerns for the welfare of the Uighurs, whom the UNHCR fears could face torture in their homeland.

'The United States strongly opposed Cambodia's involuntary return of these asylum seekers before their claims have been heard. This incident will affect Cambodia's relationship with the US and its international standing,' said the US statement.

The Cambodian government has claimed the 20 Uighurs had entered the country illegally and thus must be deported.

'There was nothing wrong with the deportation of 20 Uighurs from Cambodia back to China,' said Foreign Ministry spokesman Kuy Kong.

'Cambodia was only implementing the migration law of 1994,' he added, refusing to comment on the US embassy statement.

During his three-day visit in Cambodia, Chinese Vice President Xi is scheduled to sign agreements on 14 different projects with Cambodia including for the restoration of Takeo temple and provide a loan of 50 million yuan for a road construction project.

Cambodia tightens economic links with China

(CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia signed 14 deals worth an estimated $850 million with China on Monday, two days after defying international pressure by deporting 20 ethnic Chinese asylum-seekers, underlining growing trade and diplomatic links.

China, Cambodia's biggest source of foreign direct investment having pumped more than $4.3 billion into the impoverished nation, agreed to help fund projects ranging from roads and irrigation to temple conservation and a new a parliament building.

The exact value of the agreements, signed during a visit by Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping, was not disclosed. But the pacts were widely believed related to a deal worth $853 million when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Cambodia's prime minister, Hun Sen, met in Sichuan on October 15.

The agreements came two days after Cambodia deported 20 ethnic Uighurs at China's request, despite having signed a 1951 treaty banning the forced repatriation of refugees who face persecution at home.

The Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim group, were involved in ethnic rioting in western China in July that killed 197 people. They were smuggled into Cambodia about a month ago and applied for asylum at the United Nations refugee office.

U.S.-based Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer said in an opinion piece in Monday's Wall Street Journal that Cambodia's deportation was "no doubt influenced by enormous Chinese pressure, backed by hundreds of millions of dollars in aid."

China has repeatedly said the Uighurs in Cambodia were under investigation and were suspected of being criminals, without giving details.

"China thanked the government of Cambodia for assisting in sending back those people," said Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanarith.

The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights accused Cambodia of bowing to pressure and deporting the asylum seekers having given "strong assurances" it would be allowed to complete its investigation to determine their status.

Cambodia has said the Uighurs entered the country illegally and it was implementing its own immigration laws.

(Editing by Martin Petty and Sugita Katyal)

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping visiting Cambodia

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (L) is accompanied by Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen upon his arrival at council of minister in Phnom Penh December 21, 2009. Xi is in Cambodia for three days official visit. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAAI News Media)

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping is accompanied by Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (L) upon his arrival at council of minister in Phnom Penh December 21, 2009. Xi is in Cambodia for three days official visit. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAAI News Media)

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (C) is accompanied by Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (2nd L) upon his arrival at council of minister in Phnom Penh December 21, 2009. Xi is in Cambodia for three days official visit. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAAI News Media)

China's Vice President Xi Jinping shakes hands with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) after signing an agreement on cooperation at council of minister in Phnom Penh December 21, 2009. Xi is in Cambodia for three days official visit. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAAI News Media)

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (L) is accompanied by Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen upon his arrival at council of minister in Phnom Penh on December 21, 2009. Xi is in Cambodia for three days official visit. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAAI News Media)

Thai PM To Dissolve Government Within Seven Months With Cooperation Of Red Shirt Protestors

(CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK, Dec 21 (Bernama) -- Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Monday stated he is prepared to dissolve the House of Representatives within seven months, on condition that the opposition party and anti-government Red Shirt cooperates with the government, the Thailand news agency (TNA) reported.

Abhisit said that the opposition party should cooperate on amending the Constitution while the 'Red Shirt' activists and ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra should stop their violent campaign against his current.

Abhisit made this comment after the convicted ex-premier reportedly set conditions for entering talks with the Democrat-led coalition government to end the nation's years-long conflict if the 1997 Constitution is brought back and the government dissolves the lower house of Parliament and calls a general election.

Commenting further, Abhisit who remains adamant, said that Thaksin should return to Thailand to serve his jail term first before any negotiation can take place.

The former telecom tycoon-turned-prime minister was sentenced to two years in prison in October 2008 for abusing his position to help his then wife secure a plot of land in the capital at a below-market price.

When asked how long it will take for the House dissolution, the prime minister said if the opposition returns to the tripartite whips panel for the constitutional amendment process, it will take not more than six or seven months to work out the issue.

The tripartite meeting included representatives of the government, the Senate and the Opposition, but the Opposition Whip announced his withdrawal from the whips meeting as it opposed six key amendment points recommended by the Parliamentary Committee on Reconciliation and Constitutional Amendments.

"During the six-to-seven month period, if Thaksin and his supporters prove that they will not cause violence nor disrupt the government's administration, I am willing to dissolve the House," Abhisit said.

The premier reiterated that the condition of House dissolution is not up to him, but to the Opposition and Red Shirt supporters of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD).

Abhisit added that the constitution amendment and dissolving the House are not favourable options either for the Democrat Party or the coalition government, but the government opted to take these approaches as it listens to public opinion.

Some suggestions from the public seem quite applicable, he said.

Specialists prepare for the Development Triangle summit

(CAAI News Media)


The Common Steering Committee for the Vietnam-Cambodia-Laos Development Triangle met on December 21 in Buon ma Thuot City, Dak lak province in preparation for its 4th Summit.

During the meeting, heads of specialist groups reviewed the implementation of the agreements signed at the committee’s third summit in Laos, drew up future cooperation programmes and agreed on preparations for its fourth summit.

They also agreed to develop a joint socio-economic plan for ten provinces in the Triangle area.

The specialists focused discussions on preferential policies and a mechanism for economic development in the triangle area as well as reports on building infrastructure, mining ores, building hydroelectric power plants and developing agro-forestry and commercial services in each province.

They also discussed the draft minutes of the meeting between the three ministers, co-chairmen of the three national coordinating committees on December 22.

Tribunal charges Khmer Rouge "First Lady" with genocide

FILE - In this May 21, 2008, file photo, Ieng Thirith, front, a former Khmer Rouge social affairs minister, sits in the dock in the courtroom for a hearing at the U.N.-backed genocide tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Ieng Thirith, the last of the former Khmer Rouge leaders standing trial for alleged crimes committed three decades ago, was charged Monday Dec. 21, 2009, with genocide. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith, File)

(CAAI News Medai)

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A U.N.-backed Cambodian war crimes court on Monday charged a fourth top Khmer Rouge cadre with genocide, broadening the scope of a long-awaited trial of the ultra-communist "Killing Fields" regime's top ranks.

Ieng Thirith, 78, had already been accused of "murder, imprisonment and other inhumane acts" for her role as social affairs minister in a regime blamed for the deaths of 1.7 million people.

The new charges relate to the slaughter of Cambodia's ethnic Vietnamese and Cham Muslim minorities during the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge era. The tribunal on Monday also charged her with torture and religious persecution.

Ieng Thirith, a former Shakespeare scholar known as the "Khmer Rouge First Lady", was arrested in November 2007 with her 85-year-old husband and ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary.

The French-educated Communist revolutionaries had lived under a government amnesty granted to Ieng Sary in 1996.

They were the closest associates of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader who died in 1998. Ieng Thirith's sister, Khieu Ponnary, was married to Pol Pot.

The Khmer Rouge-era president, Khieu Samphan, was dealt an additional charge of genocide on Friday. Similar charges of genocide were also issued for "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary last week.

They have also been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, along with two other former leaders.

Experts on the Khmer Rouge have been critical of the additional charges, which they said would bog down a trial already criticized for taking too long.

Many of the defendants were in poor health and could die before they see a courtroom, while some cases were already so complex and politicized that they may not even go to trial, the experts said.

The first trial of a senior Khmer Rouge cadre, Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, came to an end three weeks ago. He was accused of overseeing the torture and murder of more than 14,000 people as head of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison.

A verdict in that case is expected by March.

(Writing by Jason Szep; Editing by Martin Petty)