Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Will Thailand seize the Thaksin fortune?

Ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra arrives by plane in Phnom Penh Nov. 10, 2009. Thaksin who is wanted at home for a graft conviction, was arriving to take up a job offer from the government that set off a diplomatic row with Bangkok. The former telecoms billionaire is in self-imposed exile after being toppled by the military in 2006 and then later found guilty on a conflict of interest charge. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen made Thaksin an economic adviser to his government and offered him a home in his country. (Reuters)

A ruling next month on fugitive ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra could spark fresh violence.

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By Patrick Winn - GlobalPost
Published: January 25, 2010

BANGKOK, Thailand — Much of the mystique surrounding Thai fugitive ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra arises from his seemingly unstoppable wealth.

His supporters behold him as a business savant, a cop-turned-telecom entrepreneur who challenged lazy aristocrats by running Thailand like a savvy CEO.

To Thaksin’s enemies, he’s a con artist who used the premiership to legalize corruption, entrench his wealth and buy the love of his largely rural, poor support base.

But on Feb. 26, Thailand’s Supreme Court may finally clip Thaksin’s Samsonian locks. Judges will then decide the fate of his $2.3 billion fortune, which was frozen in the wake of his 2006 military ouster.

If the money is absorbed by the state, Thaksin’s die-hard supporters are expected to seek reprisal. And few imagine that Thaksin will get his money back.

Thaksin is accused of growing extremely rich by evading Thai law, dodging taxes and enriching himself through family proxies. Moreover, he’s fleeing a two-year prison sentence for corruption, bouncing between safe havens in the United Arab Emirates, Cambodia and elsewhere.

Thaksin fights back by guiding an anti-establishment street faction — known as the “red shirts” — that is intent on driving out the current government.

Red shirts, whose mostly peaceful rallies sometimes turn violent, are expected to seek some sort of revenge if their shot-caller’s fortune is seized. Leaders have even considered a rally at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, echoing a 2008 airport seizure staged by anti-Thaksin protesters. (The red shirts promise that, unlike their rivals, they won’t disrupt air travel.)

“Everyone (in the red shirt camp) says there’s a 90 percent chance the assets will be seized,” said Sean Boonpracong, spokesman for the red shirts, a group formally called the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship.

The faction’s leadership will encourage non-violence, Boonpracong said. “But if they seize the assets, well, there’s a lot of pro-Thaksin in our midst.They’ll go berserk,” he said. “We’ll try to point out peaceful methods, but it’s up to them to act productively.”

Thailand’s current premier, Abhisit Vejjajiva, is already galvanizing police and soldiers in anticipation of a backlash.

“We can’t rule out their attempts at violence,” Abhisit told foreign journalists last week. “But I’m confident the majority of Thai people are actually tired of this kind of fighting for the interest of one person or a few. They want to see the country move on.”

But Thaksin supporters counter that Thailand can’t move on until they destroy double standards that keep elites in power. As their torchbearer prepares to lose his wealth to corruption charges, red shirts have rallied against figures who they claim have amassed property through their own abuses of power.

A recent 3,000-person rally near the mountain home of Gen. Surayud Chulanont — installed as premier after Thaksin’s coup — has called into question whether his estate is built on national parklands.

These attacks on hypocrisy are commendable, said Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai political scientist with the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. But they’re somewhat discredited by Thaksin’s dubious record, he said.

“You want to talk double standards? Come on,” Pavin said. “Please try to tell me Thaksin never did anything in his power to get things illegally. Why invoke Thaksin when he doesn’t have a clean image?”

Many academics, including Pavin, assume that Thaksin finances his supporters’ elaborate rallies, which involve tour buses ferrying upcountry Thais to Bangkok, expensive stage set-ups and tens of thousands of free meals.

These mass gatherings define the movement, both heartening supporters and displaying strength in numbers to intimidate the government. But if Thaksin’s wealth is drained out — his holdings outside Thailand amount to roughly $100 million, he told The Times of London — then the movement may lose much of its financing.

“If this war is about money,” Pavin said, “then the Bangkok old establishment is safe. They have plenty of money. But for Thaksin and the red shirts, they now have problems.”

Thaksin has already started rebuilding his wealth through scattered business ventures, notably gold mining concessions in Uganda.

He’s also cast himself as an investment counsellor to the developing world. He claims to have earned Nicaraguan and Montenegrin passports by offering both countries financial guidance.

More recently, he worsened sore Thai-Cambodian relations by accepting a financial advisor’s position from Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Sen. Thailand’s ruling party has refused to normalize diplomatic ties until the job is revoked.

Regardless of Thaksin’s wealth, the red shirt movement will persevere, said Boonpracong, the red shirt spokesman. “The world doesn’t fully understand us. We’re the largest pro-democracy movement in Asia,” he said. “We just happen to have overlapping interests with Thaksin.”

Chalerm brushes aside coup rumour

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Published: 26/01/2010

Chairman of Puea Thai MPs Chalerm Yubamrung said he was confident that there would not be another coup as all parties had learned that it was not the solution to the country's problems.

Mr Chalerm said he had discussed the issue with party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyuth and they had agreed on this.

“The military don’t want it because they have learned from the last coup that it did no good for the country. The coup rumour has been spread by some people who have lost out on getting benefits,” Mr Chalerm said.

He believed the army's explanation that the relocation of the armoured personnel carriers from the three southern border provinces to Pathum Thani on Sunday was for maintenance and repairs.

Asked about his sudden visit to Cambodia last week, Mr Chalerm said he had gone there after after receiving a report that some military groups and politicians had planned to stage a military coup.
He had returned to Thailand after it was confirmed there was no coup.

He denied he had met ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra while in Cambodia.

Khao Phra Viharn national park closes after Sunday clash

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SI SA KET, Jan 26 (TNA) – Thailand’s Khao Phra Viharn national park closed on Tuesday after a Sunday clash between Thai army rangers and Cambodian troops in an area disputed by both countries.

The army rangers are stationed at the national park entrance and the public is not allowed to enter for safety reasons. Thai authorities are monitoring Cambodian radio and television news to report to their superiors.

Thai Army Rangers clashed early Sunday with a unit of Cambodian soldiers near the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple. No casualties were reported.

Lt-Col. Nut Sri-in, commander of Suranaree Task Force Unit 163, said the fighting took place while a group of Thai rangers were patrolling and confronted Cambodian soldiers and some civilians who were felling trees in Thailand’s Kantharalak district bordering Cambodia.

The troops exchanged gunfire for over 20 minutes before the Cambodian soldiers withdrew into Cambodia, he said.

After negotiations later in the day, Thai and Cambodian army officers said that the fighting early Sunday was due to misunderstanding and they agreed to jointly find a solution to ease the tensions. (TNA)

Brisbane charity rescues trafficked children in Cambodia

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David Barbeler
January 26, 2010

A BRISBANE-based organisation that rescues child sex workers in southeast Asia has cracked its first Cambodian syndicate, saving two girls, 10 and 14.

The rescue was carried out by the Brisbane-based charity The Grey Man, comprising former Australian special forces soldiers, former police and civilians.

A spokesman said the group's director of operations - a former Sydney policeman who uses only the name Tony to protect his identity - was in Cambodia on a fact-finding tour when a motorbike driver offered to arrange some young girls for him.

"Tony contacted our partner agency International Justice Mission (IJM) who in turn engaged with the police," the spokesman said.

The motorbike driver took Tony to a hotel late on Monday where a pimp showed him two Vietnamese girls, aged 10 and 14, the spokesman said.

"He (Tony) asked for both girls and on the pretext of going to an ATM to get the $US600 ($A665) to pay for them, he briefed police," he said.

Police and an IJM investigator then accompanied The Grey Man director back to the room to arrest the pimp and the motorbike driver.

The girls, who'd been trafficked from Vietnam, have been placed in the care of a British aid agency. The Grey Man will assist in supporting the children.

It's understood The Grey Man representatives are working with Cambodian police to arrest others involved.

The Grey Man's president, a former special forces soldier who uses the pseudonym John Curtis, said it was the organisation's first official operation in Cambodia, having previously rescued more than 100 children and women in Thailand and Laos.

"Without our intervention these girls would have been tossed onto the street in a few short years with AIDS," he said.

"I commend the Cambodian Police and IJM for their assistance.

"It is particularly apt that on Australia Day, Australians from The Grey Man charity are putting themselves in harm's way to rescue children in southeast Asia."

Anupong plays down clash with Cambodian soldiers

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Published: 26/01/2010 at 12:00 AM

Army commander Anupong Paojinda is playing down Sunday's clash with Cambodian forces along the border near the Preah Vihear National Park.

Gen Anupong yesterday said 2nd Army commander Weewalit Chornsamrit had held talks with Cambodia's 3rd supportive division commander, Lt Gen Sarai Duek, to clear the air.

There were no problems and both sides now understood each other's position, Gen Anupong said.

But a military source along the border said there were concerns that troops from the two countries might find it difficult staying in such close proximity to each other.

Cambodian soldiers were unhappy with the Thais, who they blame for causing their unit commanders to face disciplinary action.

Two Cambodian soldiers were captured trespassing on Thai soil two weeks ago and sent back to their units. Their commanders were disciplined as a result and transferred away from the border, the source said.

The new commanders might not be familiar with the situation along the border and wooden fences had to be erected to prevent Thai patrols, he said.

Talks were being held on the problem when the firefight erupted on Sunday.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday said he did not believe the border spat would escalate.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said he had instructed military leaders in the disputed area to try to solve the problem as quickly as possible.

Mr Suthep denied suspicions that this latest spat could be linked to ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who plans to return to Cambodia again soon to meet his Puea Thai Party supporters.

Meanwhile, Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, an appointed senator, yesterday submitted a petition to the Election Commission asking it to determine whether Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya had violated the constitution.

The senator asked the commission to check whether Mr Kasit had violated sections 268 and 266 (1) which forbid MPs, senators, the prime minister and ministers from intervening or interfering in the operations of state agencies for personal or partisan gain.

The request follows the leak of classified Foreign Ministry documents supposedly crafted by Mr Kasit for Mr Abhisit on how to deal with Thaksin for damaging Thai-Cambodian relations.

The papers also suggest the speeding up of legal cases against Thaksin.

Mr Ruangkrai said the recommendations for the premier to speed the trials of Thaksin might be seen as intervening in the work of judicial officials.

Situation Along Thai-Cambodia Border Back To Normal After Clashes

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(RTTNews) - The situation along the Thai-Cambodia border has returned to normal after a brief exchange of fire between security forces of the two countries near a disputed border temple a day earlier, Thai News Agency quoted Thailand's army chief General Anupong Paochinda as saying on Monday.

Gen. Paochinda said that the tense situation along the border with Cambodia returned to normal after military officers from both countries held a meeting to discuss the incident near the site of Sunday's clashes. He added that the military officers who took part in the talks agreed that the brief exchange of fire was caused by a misunderstanding.

The Thai News Agency report indicated that Col. Thanet Wongchaum, chief of staff of the commander for the Suranaree Task Force, and Col. Thawatchai Changprachak, commander of a special unit from Thailand's Ranger Forces Regiment 23, took part in the talks from the Thai side, while Maj-Ben Srey Doek, commander of Cambodia's 3rd Reinforcement Division, represented his country in the discussions.

Earlier, security forces from the two countries exchanged fire briefly on Sunday along an un-demarcated area close to Thailand's northeastern province of Srisaged near the disputed ancient Preah Vihear border temple.

Currently, the relations between Thailand and Cambodia are strained over a disputed ancient temple on their border. Both countries claim ownership of the temple, which is located inside Cambodian territory. However, the main approach to the temple is from Thailand.

The Cambodian and Thai troops had clashed briefly near the disputed border temple in July 2008. Since then, the situation along the Thai-Cambodia border have been tense as both countries have increased their troop levels at their respective boarders.

The long-standing dispute over the Preah Vihear border temple began after International Court awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, and escalated after UNESCO listed it as a World Heritage Site recently. The dispute has led to several clashes between the armies of the two countries near the temple.

The ties between the two countries deteriorated further after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been convicted of corruption charges in Thailand, as an economic adviser to the country.

Following the diplomatic row over Thaksin's appointment, both countries withdrew their ambassadors, with Thailand accusing Cambodia of political interference.

Soon after Thaksin arrived in Cambodia to take up the post in November, Thailand officially requested the Cambodian government to arrest and extradite Thaksin back to his home country. However, Cambodia rejected the Thai request, stating that it was not covered by the extradition treaty between the two countries as it considers the conviction of Thaksin on corruption charges to be politically motivated.

Thaksin had served as Thailand's Prime Minister from 2001 to 2006, before being toppled in a military coup. He has been living in self-imposed exile, mainly in Dubai, after the military ousted him a coup in September 2006, accusing the former PM of corruption.

The military controlled the country for a short period until new elections in 2007 December brought Thaksin's allies back into power. Soon afterwards, Thaksin returned to his home country, but was sentenced to two years in absentia for corruption after he went into exile again.

The present Thai government under Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva came into power in December in a special parliamentary vote after the country's constitutional court ousted Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, an ally of Thaksin, from office and disbanded his ruling People Power Party (PPP) over electoral fraud.

For comments and feedback: contact editorial@rttnews.com

Report Details Torture in Cambodian Drug Rehab Centers

Dana Chivvis


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Drug rehabilitation centers in Cambodia are being used to torture and extort money from detainees, according to a report released Monday by the international human rights group Human Rights Watch. The group alleges that the government-run detention centers are not rehabilitating drug users but instead holding them illegally, often at the request of inmates' families.

"I think this is not a rehab center but a torturing center," one former detainee told the group.

The report accuses the centers of using "sadistic violence" to operate. Another former detainee, M'noh, 16, said that one drug center staff member beat people with whips made of twisted-together electric wires.

"One cable was the size of a little finger, one is the size of a thumb and one is the size of a toe. He would ask which you prefer. On each whip the skin would come off and stick on the cable," M'noh said.

Other detainees described being beaten, shocked with electric batons and fed rotten or insect-infested food. Some were forced to donate blood. The findings were so brutal that the report includes a glossary at the beginning explaining slang terms like "eat ice cream" (to perform oral sex) and "eating betel nut" (a punishment where a detainee is forced to run into a wall until his mouth bleeds).

Human Rights Watch interviewed 74 informants between February and July last year. Most of those interviewed had been held in a drug detention center in the last three years, and 13 of them were under 18.

"Individuals in these centers are not being treated or rehabilitated; they are being illegally detained and often tortured," said Joseph Amon, Human Rights Watch's director for health and human rights, in a statement. "These centers do not need to be revamped or modified; they need to be shut down."

Although only 15 of the 2,382 inmates reportedly detained last year in government centers were female, incidents of rape were reported. A drug user named Trabek reported seeing several gang rapes at one facility, including the rape of a mute woman. A woman in her mid-20s, called Minea in the report, said she was set free by the police only after having sex with two police officers.

"[The police] drove me to a guest house. .... How can you refuse to give him sex? You must do it," she told Human Rights Watch.

The report found at least 11 drug rehabilitation centers in Cambodia. It says about half of those detained are rounded up by police or other authorities. If they come from wealthy families, they can often bribe the police for their release. The other half are sent to the centers at the request of family members, which is legal under Cambodian law. Only 1 or 2 percent go to drug rehab willingly.

"The real motivations for Cambodia's drug detention centers appear to be a combination of social control, punishment for the perceived moral failure of drug use, and profit," Human Rights Watch concludes.

In the past decade, the use of methamphetamines in Cambodia has increased significantly, according to the report. The majority of drug users are between 18 and 25 and are mostly male. Along with the homeless, prostitutes, beggars, street children and the mentally ill, drug users in Cambodia are considered "undesirables" and are often arbitrarily arrested to "clean the city."

Read the full report at Human Rights Watch.

Cautious optimism for Cambodian airports

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By Luc Citrinot
eTN Senior Managing Editor Asia
Jan 25, 2010

Cambodian Airports Authority (Société Concessionaire des Aéroports or SCA) is optimistic for 2010 with a predicted growth in both flights and passengers, which would represent a rebound over 2009. Data for the first ten months of last year point to a contraction of 21.9% at Siem Reap Airport and of 8.5% at Phnom Penh Airport.

Imagia via studentsoftheworld.info

According to Nicolas Deviller, CEO of SCA, passengers traffic at both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports should respectively grow by 3.6% and 5.6% due to a relatively sound economy and the opening of more routes out of the airport. This winter, Korean Air opened a new route from Busan to Siem Reap while Asiana reopened its flights Seoul-Siem Reap. Lao Airlines increased also its frequencies from 10 to 14 to Siem Reap from Vientiane and Pakse. New national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air recently has increased its frequencies offering 5 daily flights between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, three daily flights on the Siem Reap-HCM City route and two daily flights between Phnom Penh and HCM City.

SCA is looking to expand Sihanoukville Airport runway, especially with the planned development of the new Song Saa Island Resort in the Koh Rong archipelago, a 30 minute boat ride from the Cambodian resort town of Sihanoukville. The resort will comprise private villas, restaurants and bar, a water sport centre and a spa. It is expected to be completed by the mid of 2011. Sihanoukville is also likely to see more resorts been developed. The city has currently only one hotel of international standard, the Sokha Beach Resort.

Penrith’s Food 4 Everyone says thanks for donating

Anne Jameson (left), Margarita Parrish, Doreen Bond and Nicole Sweeney. Picture: MATT SULLIVAN

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26 Jan 10

PENRITH-BASED charity Food 4 Everyone has thanked residents for donating animals to the people of Kampong Cham in Cambodia.

The charity, which was founded by Dr Margarita Parrish and a group of close friends in 2006, bought a farm in the province later that year.

The group called on residents to donate animals for the farm for Christmas and several people dug deep, donating money for the purchase of pigs, ducks and seed packages.

“We would like to give Penrith a really big thank you,” Dr Parrish said.

Her business, M. Parrish Psychological Services, serves as a headquarters for the group, with all staff members actively involved in the charity. Friends and family members also participate.

“We managed to get together a group of people who share the same ideals and believe human beings have a right to eat and to education,” Dr Parrish said.

“Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world. You can feed a child for just 50c a day.”

The group provides funds to feed Cambodian children twice a week, safety packages to children living in rubbish dumps and twice-weekly food packages for AIDS patients.

“In Cambodia they don’t feed patients in the AIDS ward and we think that is unacceptable,” Dr Parrish said.

Among its other initiatives, Food 4 Everyone has also built about 60 wells throughout the Third World nation.

The group also offers agricultural scholarships and educational meetings and is fundraising to build a vocational training centre.

It raises its funds through a combination of events, collecting money on the street and other donation appeals. The next planned fundraiser is a trivia night on May 15.

To donate to Food 4 Everyone call 4737 3400 or go to food4everyone.net.

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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Not More Than 30 Tigers Per Country in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam-WWF

Tuesday, 26 January 2010 07:37 By Ek Madra

PHNOM PENH – The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) voiced concerns on Tuesday that the increasing of poaching and the land encroachment of the tiger’s habitat were to be blamed for rapidly shrinking of the tiger population.

The environmental group, WWF, released the report stated that the tiger populations in the Greater Mekong countries have plummeted to about 350 today from an estimated 1,200 in 1998. The Greater Mekong includes Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

“The increasing demand for tiger body parts used in traditional Chinese medicine and habitat fragmentation from unsustainable regional infrastructure development have driven the decline of the region’s Indochinese tiger population,” said the group’s report was seen by DAP.

The fallen sharply by more than 70 percent of the tiger numbers in more than a decade prompted this conservation group to call for the first Asian Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation, which runs from 27-30 of January in Hua Hin of Thailand, where the ministers from the 13 tiger range countries to determine high-level commitment and action to secure the future of the tiger.

WWF urged the ministers to set a target of doubling the number of wild tigers by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger, which the group believed the ministers will lay down the necessary foundation for the recovery of the species across its range.

This followed a meeting held in last October in Kathmandu, Nepal, where experts from the tiger range countries recommended a series of actions that will change the trajectory of tigers from extinction to recovery.

The decline is reflected in the global wild tiger population, which is at an all time low of 3,200 down from an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 during the last Year of the Tiger in 1998, said the release.

“Decisive action must be taken to ensure this iconic sub-species does not reach the point of no return,” said Nick Cox, Coordinator of the WWF Greater Mekong Tiger Programme.

“There is a potential for tiger populations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to become locally extinct by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022, if we don’t step up actions to protect them,”
Cox said in the release.

According to tiger experts, wild tigers may disappear within the next 12 years from now, if no action is taken to stop the poaching and illegal hunting as well as to enhance habitat protection.

Despite these negative trends threatened the cat, which is now called by the conservation group as Tiger on the Brink, but there is still time to save the Greater Mekong’s Tiger—given the remaining populations are predominantly found in the Kayah Karen Tenasserim mountain border between Thailand and Myanmar.

The forest landscapes spanning 540,000 square km, or about the size of France, are priority areas for current tiger conservation efforts, it said.

The region contains the largest combined tiger habitat in the world.

“This region has huge potential to increase tiger numbers, but only if there are bold and coordinated efforts across the region and of an unprecedented scale that can protect existing tigers, tiger prey and their habitat,” said Nick Cox, Coordinator of the WWF Greater Mekong Tiger Programme.

WWF said there will be a Tiger Summit in Russian Vladivostok in September to be hosted by Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and co-chaired by the World Bank’s President Robert Zoellick.

“There is an unprecedented opportunity to galvanise political will and action to turn the tide on wild tiger numbers,” said Mike Baltzer, Leader of WWF’s Global Tiger Initiative. “But to do this, we must stop the trade in tiger parts, rampant poaching, and secure the tiger’s habitats.”

WWF estimated that wild tiger numbers to be as low as 3,200 are founded in the 13 tiger range states: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.

WWF, is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, has almost 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries.

This conservation group’s mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

Border Situation Normal After Clash

Tuesday, 26 January 2010 02:59 DAP-NEWS

The situation at the Thai-Cambodian border at Preah Vihear is back to normal after a brief exchange of gunfire on early Sunday morning, said Cambodian Army Chief at Preah Vihear Gen. Srey Doeuk.

There are no reports of casualties from either side after they exchanged gunfire early Sunday about 20 kilometers from the temple.

“The situation is coming back normal in the main areas as the two parties met to discuss the situation, avoiding a clash between the two parties,” Srey Doeuk told DAP News Cambodia on Monday.

“This clash is simple event. When they encroach illegally into Cambodian land, as they did not listen to us, the clash took place a moment. But we wish peace,” he said.

Everything is now fine after senior military officials from the two countries discussed following the clash, the Thai News Agency quoted Thai General Anupong as saying.

A brief fight between Thai and Cambodian soldiers near Preah Vihar Temple was caused by misunderstanding and has been resolved, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was quoted as saying by the Nation on Monday.

The Thai premier said both sides have met and agreed to settle. “There would be no escalation of the situation,” he said.

Thai Army spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd said Monday that “It was a misunderstanding. I cannot say who first opened fire but the misunderstanding has been settled.”

Relations between the two countries plunged further in November last year, when Cambodia named Thaksin an adviser on economic affairs. The appoin- tment, and subsequent visits by Thaksin, set off a diplomatic row in which the two countries recalled their ambassadors. A Thai court in 2008 sentenced Thaksin in absentia to two years in prison on a corruption charge.

Khmers in US Express Support for Cambodian Soldiers

Tuesday, 26 January 2010 02:58 DAP-NEWS

Cambodian citizens living the US expressed their support of the Cambod- ian soldiers defending the border following a brief clash on Sunday.

A report made by DAP Media Center reporter in the US Young Yali said that Cambodian citizens in the US showed their support of soldiers defending Cam- bodian sovereignty from Thai soldiers’ encroachment.

One citizen, Hang Rein, said that “I have suffered bad feelings when I heard that Siem soldiers encroached illegally into our land. When I went to the Khmer association, I heard many people say the same, as they showed their pain for the Thai soldiers’ encroachment.”

“I wish say to all soldiers who station at the border, do not believe Thai soldiers’ tricks as they are very devious. They agree with their hands, but they use their legs to erase the agreement,” he added. One citizen claimed that he could not control his feelings when he heard that Thai soldiers fired upon Cambodians. “I hope that Samdech Techo Hun Sen, the Cambodian Prime Minister, does not ignore this issue,” he added.

“I wish inform all soldiers that you have to be strong to defend the land as we are strongly supporting you,” he said.

Some in the US recently told Soy Sopheap, DAP Media Center Director-General, that they have decided to support Premier Hun Sen.

Biggest Sugar Factory Opens

Tuesday, 26 January 2010 02:49 DAP-NEWS

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday opened the biggest white sugar factory in the kingdom in Koh Kong province. The factory is a joint venture between a local company and foreign partners, including from Thailand and Taiwan.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, PM Hun Sen said that the factory will create a market for sugarcane from the local farmers, helping sugar planters in Koh Kong province and later in Kompong Speu, Preah Sihanouk and Kampot. “This factory will encourage a race to sugarcane,” he added.

“We have to expand the planting of sugarcane in this region to meet the demand from this factory,” he said, adding that some companies with economic land concessions from the state they have not planted or not developed anything. “The Ministry of Agriculture needs to withdraw from them back to plant the sugarcane plantations. They should not waste the chance from the global economic crisis or delay investment projects.”

He also criticized some investors who met with him at his Takhmao residence, saying their planned investments in a sugar factory came to nothing.

“They had their photos taken with me to show off in foreign countries only. Now we have a local company that works silently with foreign partners to open the biggest factory and it is a very successful investment.”

The investors just met the PM a few weeks ago and invited him to open the factory, Hun Sen said, also asking for his recommendations. He highlighted his appreciation of local investors like tycoon Ly Yong Phat, who is also a shareholder in the joint venture.

Hun Sen revealed that the full capacity of this factory is about 70,000 tons of sugar, requiring 700,000 tons of sugarcane. Hun Sen said the factory can produce 24 tons of white sugar per day. The factory needs 4,000 workers and but lacks between 1,000 and 2,000 workers. Hun Sen appealed for local people not to travel to neighboring countries, where the price of labor force is similar to local labor price but many face risks from illegal travel.

Cambodia can now export white sugar, Hun Sen said, noting the work of local companies buying rice for export. He said that rice costs about US$1,000 per ton this year and the country could export over 2 million tons of milled rice surplus after this year’s harvest of over 7 million tons of un-milled rice. He also said that corn and cassava are increasingly being turned into ethanol bio-fuel. Such projects help the local farmers, he said.

Koh Kong in southwest Cambodia has just started to integrate infrastructure with other areas and has potential regions as a tourist destination, with mountain ranges and beaches.

Hoisting the ballots

Photo by: AFP

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 26 January 2010 15:05 AFP

An election worker, accompanied by police officers, carries a box full of ballots for distribution in Colombo on Monday. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa vowed that the country’s first post-civil war national election would be conducted peacefully and fairly as he squares off against his former army chief, Sarath Fonseka, in an increasingly acrimonious campaign.

Sam Rainsy could face fresh legal challenge

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Tuesday, 26 January 2010 15:04 Sebastian Strangio and Meas Sokchea

Govt disputes SRP post about Vietnam border encroachment

OPPOSITION leader Sam Rainsy could face fresh criminal charges after his party released what it said was concrete proof of Vietnamese border encroachments, a senior government official said on Monday.

Government adviser Tith Sothea said the government was considering whether to take legal action against the Sam Rainsy Party president for publishing documents denigrating the government’s border-demarcation efforts.

“The government will consider taking legal action to prohibit any illegal publication that affects the security of the social order,” he said, adding that a decision would not be made until after Sam Rainsy’s trial on Wednesday.

Tith Sothea, who is also a member of the Quick Response Team at the press office of the Council of Ministers, defended the government’s effort, which he said was based on a 1985 treaty with Vietnam and a 2005 agreement approved by the National Assembly and signed by the King.

“Sam Rainsy is not the representative of Cambodia’s 123 parliamentarians,” he said. “On the contrary, he has affected [the country’s] honour and its overarching interests.”

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, could not confirm whether the government would launch legal action against Sam Rainsy, but described the SRP’s evidence as “misleading”.

“It’s misinformation that has been published through his Web site,” he said.

“It’s just to cover up what they’ve done by pulling up these border markers.”

On Sunday, the SRP posted on its Web site what it described as “unprecedented evidence” that Vietnamese border markers 184, 185, 186 and 187 have been placed well inside Cambodia’s legal territory as defined by a French map from 1952 and a 1966 map published by the US Department of Defence.

According to a statement released with the documents, Sam Rainsy enlisted historians and geographers from several countries to determine the placement of the markers.

The charges currently facing Sam Rainsy stem from an October 25 incident in which he travelled to Svay Rieng province’s Chantrea district and joined villagers in uprooting temporary border posts they said had been placed in their rice fields by Vietnamese authorities.

Sam Rainsy, who is currently overseas, is set to stand trial at Svay Rieng provincial court on Wednesday along with two local villagers involved in the incident. Three more are on the run from the police.

When contacted on Monday, SRP spokesman Yim Sovann defended the party’s research, saying it would soon begin investigating border-demarcation efforts along other stretches of the countries’ 1,228-kilometre shared border.

“I think this is very accurate – everything is shown on the map.… Nobody can deny the facts,” he said.

Others noted the government’s rapid reaction to the release of the SRP’s evidence, saying it stood in stark contrast to its attitude towards issues on the Thai border.

“This kind of rapid reaction will only play into what others believe, which is that Hun Sen and the Cambodian government is not willing to address concerns about the Vietnamese border,” said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.

“It probably shows that Sam Rainsy has a point.”


Earlier on Monday, Sam Rainsy said he had no interest in his trial proceedings, saying the outcome was a foregone conclusion.

“We knew about Cambodian court processes, so we do not have confidence in the court,” he said by phone from Paris, adding that he was not presenting his evidence for the interests of the court.

“What I am doing is showing the truth. These are documents and evidence that cannot be denied. If the court still wants to be blind, it is up to the court,” he added. “The main judge is the Khmer people.”

Playing the Vietnam card
One day before his trial, however, it is unclear what benefit the opposition will gain from the prolonged confrontation in Svay Rieng. Though Sam Rainsy has tapped into a deep vein of local concern – the historical fear of Vietnamese domination – analysts are divided on whether it will translate into future gains at the ballot box.

Some argued that playing up the Vietnam issue could lead to considerable gains for the SRP.

“Cambodian people are concerned about their livelihoods, but if you talk to them they talk about border concerns and immigration,” said Koul Panha, executive director of the local election monitor Comfrel. “I think this could attract more voters.”

Ou Virak said the SRP’s border campaign – including its use of a derogatory term to refer to ethnic Vietnamese – would likely galvanise its “hardcore supporters” and solidify its base.

“A large chunk of the Cambodian population has similar views of animosity towards Vietnam.... Using this kind of rhetoric will get you a good percentage of votes,” he said.

Others, however, were less convinced of the utility of the Vietnamese border issue. “In my view, Sam Rainsy’s Vietnamese card has won him some popular support, but not to the extent that he could win elections,” said Sorpong Peou, a professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo.

Despite gains at the ballot box since 1998, she said, other Cambodian voters were more likely to worry about more basic needs, such as securing their next meal.

Caroline Hughes, a political scientist at Murdoch University in Perth, told the Post in November that though the Vietnam issue might promote unity among “scattered and isolated rural supporters” of the SRP, it might also be aimed at the Cambodian diaspora, from which the SRP derives financial support.

“To some extent, I think it distracts attention from more serious land issues, and even from more serious border issues,” she said.

While striking a strong nationalist chord could ultimately position the SRP well against its liberal and royalist rivals in the opposition camp, Ou Virak said it was hard to tell whether it would start to burrow into the rural base of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

He noted that Hun Sen was also scoring points in his current standoff with Thailand – another traditional enemy to the west.

“It doesn’t appear at the moment to be changing [the situation] much,” he said.

Govt floats VAT on power

Of course [the proposed VAT] is something to be concerned about.
via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 26 January 2010 15:04 May kunmakara and Jacob Gold

CUSTOMERS of Electricite du Cambodge (EDC) in Phnom Penh and five other provinces would pay a new value-added tax (VAT) on electricity consumed beginning March 1, under a new plan proposed by the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy at a meeting on Monday.

Ministry officials say the new tax, the rates of which differ from province to province and are adjusted for the scale and type of consumer, will help EDC become self-sufficient following an end to government subsidies of electricity later this year.

Representatives of Cambodia’s business community, however, have voiced concern that the new tax could hinder investment in the country’s export industries, which are struggling to remain competitive in the post-downturn global economy.

Ith Praing, a secretary of state at the ministry, said current electricity prices, which have been in effect since 2006, do not reflect the current oil price on the world market and other input costs for generating power, and thus have been draining revenue from EDC.

“Because EDC is the major power supplier for the national grid, it is crucial that they become a sustainable enterprise that does not need subsidies from the national budget,” he said.

Ith Praing said that a household in Phnom Penh using less than 50 kilowatt-hours per month currently pays 390 riels (US$0.093) per kilowatt-hour, or just over half of the cost of producing the power. With the application of the new VAT, the price for the same household will be 610 riels ($0.14) per kilowatt hour.

Chou Kimleng, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said that although consumers could face a significant hike in electricity prices, the burden of subsidies on the government’s budget is growing even faster.

“From 1999 until 2006, the government spent about 158 billion riels (U$37.7 million) subsidising the EDC. Since 2007, the government has already spent $36 million,” he said.

Commercial consumers of electricity say they are concerned that the new VAT – which in addition to Phnom Penh will affect Kandal, Kampong Speu, Takeo, Preah Sihanouk and Kampong Cham provinces – would only drive up production costs at a time when the competitiveness of Cambodian industries is at a historic low.

According to a December 2009 International Monetary Fund report on Cambodia’s garment sector, “Competitiveness in Cambodia is hampered by several factors, mainly lower productivity, unreliable supply and high cost of electricity (about 15 percent of total cost).”

Nguon Meng Tech, director general of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, said he hoped the government would reconsider its position on taxing EDC’s industrial customers.

“If they apply this across the board, it could be very problematic. It will make it even harder to get investors to come here to do business,” Nguon Meng Tech said. “But maybe the prime minister will take a good look, along with Deputy Prime Minister [and Minister of Finance] Keat Chhon, in order to come up with a solution. Otherwise, we won’t be competitive with neighbours like Laos and Vietnam.”

Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers’ Association of Cambodia, said that one such solution would be to give recovering industries a reprieve from the new tax.

“Of course, this is something to be concerned about.… In all possibility, we will try to approach the government for a waiver or an exemption, at least on a temporary basis,” he said.

Police Blotter: 26 Jan 2010

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 26 January 2010 15:02 Phak Seangly

A woman who worked as a beer seller is suing a restaurant singer for attacking her with a shoe in an argument on Wednesday in Battambang town. The victim said her co-worker assaulted her in the back of the head with the shoe because she was jealous of the fact that so many customers were in love with her.

Banteay Meanchey provincial police arrested a 20-year-old woman on suspicion of stealing a necklace from a 3-year-old girl in a market on Wednesday. Police said the woman, from Phnom Penh, snatched the necklace from the girl but failed to escape the scene. She was later found by police, still wearing the necklace.

A 22-year-old man from Kratie province was arrested Friday after allegedly attempting to kill his uncle in a drunken rampage. According to police, the accused started an argument with his family before chasing his 42-year-old uncle through the village with two cleavers. He then went home and damaged his house after his uncle managed to escape. The local district police chief said the defendant often caused problems in the village, but had until now managed to escape arrest.

Three men were each sentenced to six years in prison by Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday after a foiled robbery attempt in 2008. A complaint letter from police said the three men tied a wire across a road in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district in an attempt to fell motorbike drivers and rob them. A police officer discovered the wire and arrested the accused before any drivers were injured. Two of the men confessed, while another claimed innocence on the grounds that he was drunk and knew nothing of the plan.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday sentenced a man in absentia to 10 years in prison after finding him guilty of using an illegal weapon and intending to commit murder in an incident in April 2004. According to testimony from the victim – a 30-year-old woman – the accused shot her with a gun after an argument about gold prices at a market in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district. Police are still hunting for the man.

Thaksin reportedly mulling govt in exile

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 26 January 2010 15:04 James O’toole and Cheang Sokha

FUGITIVE Thai former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is reportedly considering establishing a government in exile, following a series of high-profile visits to Cambodia in his capacity as government economics adviser.

Speaking to his Red Shirt supporters in Thailand by videoconference on Saturday, Thaksin said he planned to set up a government in exile soon, the Bangkok Post reported. Thaksin said Monday, though, that he would act only in the event of a coup, according to Bangkok’s The Nation newspaper.

“If a coup is staged, we will form a government in exile together. Now, I have not set it up yet. I must wait for a coup to take place first,” Thaksin reportedly wrote on his Twitter feed.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said last month that he will wait for a new government to be set up in Thailand before normalising relations, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong declined to say whether Cambodia would play host to a Thaksin-led government in exile.

“We cannot comment on this now because it is not official information, and there is no official request directly made from Thaksin. Thaksin has travelled during his exile to many countries in the world, not just Cambodia,” Koy Kuong said.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanyagorn declined to comment on the issue. Thailand issued a request for Thaksin’s extradition in November, during the fugitive billionaire’s first visit to Cambodia as a government adviser, that was summarily denied by Cambodian officials.

“A government in exile is a matter of the host country, so we have no position on that, but what we are here is … a legitimate government and a member of the United Nations,” Panitan said.

Thaksin, who was deposed in a 2006 coup and went into exile in 2008 to avoid a prison term for corruption charges, has incensed the Abhisit government and exacerbated tensions in Thai-Cambodian relations with his visits to the Kingdom in recent months.

In a November 16 letter to Abhisit, leaked through the Thai opposition last month and posted in English translation on Thaksin’s Web site, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya addressed the possibility of a Thaksin-led government in exile.

In the letter, Kasit urged caution and pressed for “the normalisation of Thai-Cambodian relations”, though he added that military action could be warranted in several “worst-case scenarios” in which Thailand’s sovereignty is threatened, including Thaksin’s establishment of a government in exile in Cambodia.

Panitan said Monday that there was no reason to doubt the stability of the Thai government, despite large-scale rallies planned by the populist Red Shirts and fears of a conservative coup by the Thai military.

“Since last year, we’ve assured the international community that civility and law and order will be upheld, and we have done so,” Panitan said.

Border shootout a ‘misunderstanding’

Photo by: AFP
A Cambodian soldier stands guard Sunday near the Preah Vihear temple complex.

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 26 January 2010 15:04 Cheang Sokha and James O’toole

CAMBODIAN and Thai officials say skirmishes that broke out along their contentious border on Sunday near Preah Vihear temple were the result of a “misunderstanding”, and have promised a return to peaceful relations.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told Bangkok’s The Nation newspaper that after meetings on Sunday, commanders from the respective armies had agreed that there “would be no escalation of the situation”.

Chhum Socheat, spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, said the commanders “agreed not to redeploy troops at that area to avoid further confusion”, adding that the hostilities occurred at a contested area along the border, which has yet to be fully demarcated.“The clash site is a complicated area and a location of illegal logging activities,” he said.

Royal Cambodian Armed Forces officials say Thai troops touched off the hostilities on Sunday by trespassing onto Cambodian territory and opening fire, though Thailand says the RCAF troops were in Thai territory and began shooting first.

No Cambodian soldiers were reported injured; however, Thai media broadcast varying accounts of the clash, with some reporting that two Thai soldiers were wounded and others saying no casualties occurred. Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanyagorn said, however, that Bangkok believed no one was hurt.

“We have received no report of casualties or injuries as of now,” he said.

Miss Landmine: Pageant winner takes new prize

Tuesday, 26 January 2010 15:04 Tha Piseth

Miss Landmine

The winner of a controversial pageant for Cambodian landmine victims has also taken top prize in “Miss Landmine Harstad Conference 2010”, which was held during a meeting of more than 300 politicians, business managers and entrepreneurs in Harstad, Norway, earlier this month, the pageant’s organisers said in a press release Monday. Dos Sopheap, 18, had previously won both components of the Miss Landmine Cambodia 2009 pageant: an online vote in which more than 2,300 voters from 30 countries participated, and a November event held in Kristiansand, Norway, in which photos of the Cambodian contestants were displayed for judges. Last year, government officials banned Miss Landmine Cambodia 2009 from taking place in the Kingdom, saying it was disrespectful to people living with disabilities. Officials from the Social Affairs Ministry declined to comment Monday.

Reported rape cases rose in 2009: analysts

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A 14- year-old girl raped by her father during a fishing trip on the Tonle Sap river in Pursat province last year.

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 26 January 2010 15:04 Mom Kunthear and Brooke Lewis

THE number of rape cases reported in selected newspapers increased from 268 in 2008 to 322 in 2009, and more than half of last year’s cases involved victims who were minors, according to a media analysis released last week.

In its report on the coverage of rape cases in five local newspapers, the Cambodian branch of End Child Prostitution, Abuse and Trafficking (ECPAT) found that of the 337 victims in the 322 reported cases last year, 204 were minors.

Chin Chanveasna, director of ECPAT-Cambodia, said Monday that the increase in reported cases reflected, in part, a nationwide effort to raise awareness of rape. “I think the government and NGOs have been working to broadcast about protection from rape,” he said. “But we are worried and need to do more to educate parents to pay attention to their children’s safety.”

Of the 381 suspects involved in rape cases last year, only six – just 1.5 percent – were reported to have been convicted, a figure ECPAT attributed in part to the frequency of out-of-court settlements.

Chin Chanveasna said many victims settle out of court because they can’t afford legal fees, though he said this practice would ensure that rape continues because it leaves perpetrators free to offend again.

“I still push and encourage them to go to court even when the victims do not have the [financial] ability to make a complaint, because there are many NGOs that can help them without taking money,” he said.

Sao Chan Horm, a monitor for the rights group Licadho, said Monday that the government needs to spread more information about how people can protect themselves from rape. “Mostly it happens in rural areas with poor families and low education,” she said, adding that the rise in reported cases involving minors should not be blamed on careless parenting.

Sao Chan Horm said Licadho had also recorded an increase in reported rape cases in 2009, though she noted that the data covered only 14 provinces. Licadho collected reports from newspapers, victims’ families and police. That data showed a spike in child rape, from 146 to 209 cases.

Chin Chanveasna emphasised that the total number of rape cases was higher than the number extracted from news reports, and noted that ECPAT would release a comprehensive report along with other NGOs in mid-2010.

Court questions three suspects over child sex ring allegations

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Tuesday, 26 January 2010 15:03 May Titthara

TWO Cambodians charged with selling prostitution in the operation of a child sex ring, and a 59-year-old American charged with buying child sex and producing child pornography were sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday for questioning, law enforcement officials said.

The suspects were identified as Mey Sovann, a 36-year-old taxi driver, guesthouse owner Sek Vy, 47, and 59-year-old American Carl Craig Thomas.

Municipal Court Deputy Prosecutor Hing Bunchea said the trio were serving pretrial detention in Prey Sar prison.

“We brought them in for further questioning, and we requested a detention warrant from the court to keep them in prison,” he said.

Bith Kimhong, director of the Ministry of Interior’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection bureau, said the arrests were the result of a six-month investigation conducted in cooperation with the French Police’s International Technical Cooperation Delegation (SCTIP).

According to the investigation, Bith Kimhong said, Mey Sovann had been operating a child sex ring on the Internet since 2003, advertising underage virgin girls available for US$3,000 a night. He would allegedly pick up customers from the airport before taking the men to Sek Vy’s guesthouse to meet the children.

Bith Kimhong said officials arrested Thomas, who arrived in Cambodia on January 14, in Daun Penh district’s Psar Thmey III commune, where they also seized a large stash of child pornography.

Samleang Seila, country director of the child rights group Action Pour Les Enfants, was not involved in the investigation, though he said the increasing use of the Internet to sell sex presents a new challenge in the fight against paedophilia.

“This is happening as a consequence of the increasing number of arrests of foreign paedophiles so far – people begin to think it is not safe now to expose themselves outside as looking for child sex, so they instead go underground,” he said.


Battambang vendors file complaint

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 26 January 2010 15:03 May Titthara

MARKET vendors from Snoeng Market in Battambang province’s Banon district have filed a complaints against their proposed relocation and called on NGOs to intervene in their case, vendors said on Monday.

Bun Thet, a representative of the sellers, said he filed a complaint to provincial authorities and local NGOs on Monday, to request that they be allowed to continue doing business in the same location. Sreng Sreang, governor of Banon district, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

On January 20, Banon district authorities sent a letter to vendors giving them until January 22 to move to a new market. It said the old market is due to be affected by the upgrade of National Road 57, which runs from Battambang to Pailin.

“All the vendors agree for any company to develop the market, but they should come develop the old market. We do not agree to move to the new market,” Bun Thet said.

Buth Sambo, Banon district police chief, said the villagers might be able to do business at the old location if they can put up with the inconvenience of the road construction.

Govt inaction means K Krom still in limbo

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Tuesday, 26 January 2010 15:03 Cameron Wells and Tharum bun

POLICE in Boeung Tumpun commune have forwarded to their superiors information about a group of ethnic Khmer Krom who say they are fleeing persecution in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region, and a representative of the group said Monday that he was planning to meet today with the commune chief to discuss their plight.

Members of the group – deported on December 5 from Thailand after a failed asylum bid – have been seeking formal recognition of their citizenship since arriving in the Kingdom, but are poor and reportedly running out of food.

The deportees’ status has been uncertain since their arrival, despite repeated requests to the Ministry of Interior and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to formally recognise their citizenship.

Boeung Tumpun commune police officer Tep Bora said the basic identifying information, collected on January 14, was to be sent to Meanchey district police on Monday.

“Last time we got all the information about the group, and now it is being submitted to the police chief to process the legal documents for them,” Tep Bora said.

“We’re doing our work as they requested.”

Five of the original group of 24 have returned to Thailand so far this month in a second bid to gain asylum there, having lost confidence in Cambodia’s ability to help them, group representative Thach Soong said.

Last week, Thach Soong issued a public appeal to Surya Subedi, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, asking him for assistance in ensuring they receive formal permission to settle in the Kingdom permanently.

A sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen in December stipulated that the processing of asylum seekers would become the sole responsibility of the government.

Thach Soong said police briefly visited members of the group on January 22, marking the second time the deportees have been met by the authorities this month.

“We were checked in on briefly by commune police [officer] Taing Sopha last Friday, but I don’t know exactly what this visit was about,” Thach Soong said. “He left quickly after seeing us; there was no talk.”

Without identity cards, Thach Soong said, the deportees, who have been receiving aid from a local NGO, will remain unable to rent property, attend school or seek medical care at hospitals.

In advance of today’s meeting with Thach Soong, Boeung Tumpun commune chief Sous Sarin said Monday that only local police had the authority to give the deportees the documents they need to remain in Cambodia legally.

A Human Rights Watch report released last week reiterated concerns about the government’s processing of Khmer Krom who flee Vietnam and seek refuge in Cambodia.

“While the Cambodian government stated that it considers Khmer Krom (ethnic Khmers from southern Vietnam) who move to Cambodia from Vietnam to be Cambodian citizens, authorities routinely failed to provide protection in the form of political asylum, let alone full citizen’s rights, to many Khmer Krom living in Cambodia,” the report said.