Saturday, 27 February 2010

Cambodia SKorea bilateral trade soars

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Cambodian exports to South Korea surged 391 percent in January compared with the same month last year.

Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency says the 4 point 3 million dollar rise comes amid an overall increase in bilateral trade between the two countries.

Korea Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia says rising demand from North America has also help spur the recovery in trade.

South Korea runs garment factories in the Kingdom, and Cambodia in turn imports raw materials for its primary export industry, so trade between the two is highly dependent on demand from the United States and Canada.

Last month rubber was Cambodia's largest export to South Korea indicating the Kingdom's intention to move into other export industries, particularly agricultural products.

Viettel conquers Cambodia's mobile market

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February, 27 2010

HA NOI — Viettel Cambodia, a subsidiary of Viet Nam's military-run telecom service provider, now owns 42 per cent of the base transceiver stations (BTS) and 88 per cent the optic-fibre cable in Cambodia.

In terms of subscribers, it now holds the second place just six months after becoming operational.

The telecom provider aims to obtain a turnover of US$250 million this year. It also plans to have 3,000 BTS for 2G services and 1,500 BTS for its 3G network. It is also looking to increase its optic-fibre cable network to between 15,000 and 16,000 kilometres.

Viettel said it was looking to have a 46 per cent share of the fixed-line subscriber market, and 90 per cent of the mobile phone and ADSL markets.

The group is now the leading Vietnamese investor in foreign countries.

This year, it plans to invest in Bangladesh, while expanding its market share in other foreign countries.

The group said its targeted turnover this year was VND75 trillion to VND78 trillion ($4-4.2 billion), an increase of 60 per cent to 70 per cent against last year.

In the domestic market, its BTS and optic-fibre cable infrastructure has increased by 50 per cent. It has 26,000 stations for 2G and 3G services and 90,000 kilometres of cable.

The telecom provider plans to have 7,000 operational BTS for 3G services in Viet Nam.

Viettel deputy general director Nguyen Manh Hung said the group would be responsible for designing its products, while they would be assembled in mainland China or Taiwan.

Hung said his company decided to invest in producing made-in-Viet Nam mobile phone products to meet the demand of Viet Nam's 40 million subscribers. It is anticipated that there will be 50 million subscribers by the end of this year. — VNS

Cambodia Not Ready for Munitions Pact: Official

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By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
26 February 2010

Cambodiais not ready to ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions, due to stockpiles it is currently holding, a senior government official said Thursday.

Cambodia is still assessing the cost and means associated with finding a replacement to its current munitions, Prak Sokhon, vice president of the Cambodia Mine Action Authority, said, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

We need more time to study the number of cluster munitions we have and if we need to replace them in order for us to sign the convention,” he said.

The government also needs to know “how much money and time we need to replace the munitions with the ones that are not banned,” he said. “Once we have these, we can then sign it.”

The UN took the opportunity on National Mine Awareness Day on Wednesday to renew an appeal for Cambodiato renew its commitment to the eliminating cluster munitions.

“We urge Cambodiato sign and ratify as soon as possible the Convention on Cluster Munitions to demonstrate its commitment to a peaceful and secure world,” the UN said in a statement.

Cambodiais peppered with landmines, remnants of decades of civil strife, though the number of mine- and ordnance-related fatalities has dropped over the past four years, falling from 450 in 2006 to 243 in 2009.

The decrease was due to better demining operations, law enforcement and coordination in identifying mined areas, Prak Sokhon said.

Negative impact on Ratanakiri villagers from Vietnamese dam - RFA Video

Water released from Vietnamese dam creates danger along river in Cambodia in Ratanakiri province

Thai Anti-Government Protestors Plan Rally New Tang Dynasty Television


Anti-government protesters in Thailand announced their plans to hold mass rallies beginning mid-March in a bid to force parliament to dissolve and to call for new elections.

The call for new protests comes as the country waits for a Supreme Court ruling on Friday (February 26) on whether or not to seize the assets of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The Pro-Thaksin United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, or U.D.D, will protest in the capital for at least seven days. Its expected to be their first lengthy demonstration since violent protests last April.

Hundreds of the red-shirted supporters gathered at the Bangkok news conference to hear the plan.

[Jatuporn Prompan, U.D.D. Leader]:
"Our red shirts from all parts of the country will begin to mobilize on March 12. And all the crowd flows will meet in Bangkok on March 14."

The group has vowed to bring a million Thais to the capital to topple the government within seven days.

[Jatuporn Prompan, UDD Leader]:
"The March 14 event will be the beginning of the countdown to the end of autocrats and the government."

The U.D.D. says Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's six-party coalition government is illegitimate because it was not elected by the people but put together by the army after Thaksin was ousted.

At a news conference after the weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said its the government's duty to maintain peace and order.

[Abhisit Vejjajiva, Thai Prime Minister]:
"The government will not allow any threat to affect our stability. It is a duty of the government to keep the peace and stability and we will continue to maintain the jurisdiction system."

Security forces are braced for a big turnout and a possible violent response to the court verdict due on Friday (February 26) on whether to seize $2.3 billion in assets belonging to the family of Thaksin, who was accused of abuse of power while he was in the premiership and became unusually rich.

Thailand's top court Friday stripped Thaksin Shinawatra of more than half his 2.3-billion-dollar fortune after ruling that the fugitive former premier had abused his power for personal gain.

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is shown on a large screen during a teleconference to his supporters at one of their headquarters in Bangkok February 26, 2010. A Thai court on Friday seized $1.4 billion worth of assets belonging to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra's family, about $900 million less than the maximum in a decision that could appease some anti-government forces. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

Supporters of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra cry as they wait for news at one of their headquarters in Bangkok February 26, 2010. A Thai court on Friday seized $1.4 billion worth of assets belonging to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra's family, about $900 million less than the maximum in a decision that could appease some anti-government forces. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

Supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra burn an effigy of a court building and toy rifles during a protest against the supreme court's verdict on Thaksin's asset at the royal ground Friday, Feb. 26, 2010 in Bangkok. Thailand's Supreme Court ruled Friday that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra unlawfully concealed his assets while in office and abused his power for personal gain, as it prepared to issue a decision on whether his $2.29 billion fortune should be seized. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

A supporter of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is seen as other supporters burn what they say is the spirit house representing the Supreme Court near its main building in Bangkok late February 26, 2010. A Thai court on Friday seized $1.4 billion worth of assets belonging to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra's family, about $900 million less than the maximum in a decision that could appease some anti-government forces. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra cheer with their clapping tools as an effigy of a court building and fake rifles are set on fire during a protest against the supreme court's verdict on Thaksin's asset at the royal ground Friday, Feb. 26, 2010 in Bangkok. Thailand's Supreme Court ruled Friday that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra unlawfully concealed his assets while in office and abused his power for personal gain, as it prepared to issue a decision on whether his $2.29 billion fortune should be seized. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Supporters of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra cry at Pheu Thai Party office in Bangkok, Thailand, on Friday, Feb. 26, 2010. Thailand's highest court has ruled that Thaksin concealed his assets while in office and abused his power for personal gain, and ordered the seizure of 46 billion baht (US$1.4 billion) of his US$2.29 billion in frozen assets. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Supporters of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra shout slogans at Pheu Thai Party in Bangkok, Thailand, on Friday, Feb. 26, 2010. Thailand's highest court has ruled that Thaksin concealed his assets while in office and abused his power for personal gain, and ordered the seizure of 46 billion baht (US$1.4 billion) of his US$2.29 billion in frozen assets. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Supporters of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra react as he addresses them via video link at the park near the Supreme Court in Bangkok late February 26, 2010. A Thai court on Friday seized $1.4 billion worth of assets belonging to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra's family, about $900 million less than the maximum in a decision that could appease some anti-government forces. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Buddhist monks join a protest against the supreme court's verdict on Thaksin's assets at the royal ground Friday, Feb. 26, 2010, in Bangkok. Thailand's Supreme Court ruled Friday that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra unlawfully concealed his assets while in office and abused his power for personal gain, as it prepared to issue a decision on whether his $2.29 billion fortune should be seized. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Supporters of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra react during the announcement by the Supreme Court of the verdict on the fortune of Thaksin at the opposition Puea Thai party headquarters in Bangkok. Thailand's top court Friday stripped Thaksin of more than half his 2.3-billion-dollar fortune after ruling that the fugitive former premier had abused his power for personal gain. (AFP/Christophe Archambault)

As Thailand's top court rules on the fate of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra 2.3-billion-dollar fortune, an analyst explains why Thaksin remains a popular figure. Duration:01: 02(AFPTV)

Thaksin Shinawatra must cough up half of his fortune: Judge

Thailand`s fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra (L) is embraced by a supporter as he greets red-shirted supporters at a hotel in Siem Reap November 12, 2009. Emboldened by a rousing welcome in Cambodia, Thaksin is raising the stakes in his bid for a political comeback by rallying support from just over the border. (REUTERS / Chor Sokunthea)

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26 February 2010

The Supreme Court in Thailand has ruled that more than half of the former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's frozen assets of $2.3 billion could be taken away from him by the government

Thaksin, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006, will have to hand over $1.4 billion.

Following an eight-hour judgement, the court found Thaksin guilty on five counts of corruption.

Thai judges said Mr Thaksin "abused his power" while in office. They added that the former leader had deliberately hidden his wealth and had covered up his ownership of shares in his family-controlled telecommunications company, Shin Corp.

Thaksin himself said the court's decision was "100% political," according to the BBC News.

The former leader was convicted in 2008 over a corrupt land deal and sentenced to two years' jail, but fled the country.

Thaksin now lives in exile in Dubai, but remains hugely popular with Thailand's rural poor.

Floating lodge sits lightly

Water level ... the floating 4 Rivers Eco Lodge in Cambodia

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CAMBODIA'S first floating eco-lodge has opened in Koh Kong province. The 4 Rivers Eco Lodge is on the Tatai River, halfway between Bangkok and Phnom Penh. Owner Valentin Pawlik, who arrived in Cambodia five years ago from Romania to work in the boat industry, says the pristine beauty of the area has led him down the eco path.

"I'm not [yet] an eco-maniac but I totally agree that we urgently need to do something in the area of sustainable development," he says.

Pawlik says the resort fulfils all the tenets of responsible eco-tourism. It is treating black water, managing waste, has an energy-consumption policy and a green-energy transition plan.

"So I'm proud to say we're not leaving any environmental footprint," he says. "If we are to move the resort there will be no sign of it following our departure."

Local people have helped build the resort and staff it in maintenance and housekeeping roles as well as in the kitchen, which uses fish and local produce.

The resort is aimed at the traveller who likes wilderness with a dash of luxury. Each of the 12 floating tents is stylishly fitted out and has Wi-Fi and a flat-screen television.

Tents are $US120 ($133) a night including breakfast until April and $US102 from May until September.

Korea Expressway signs construction deal with Cambodia

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Korea's state-run Korea Expressway Corp. said Friday it has signed a $2.65 million deal with the Cambodian government to improve and build new roadways for the Southeast Asian country.

The clinching of the deal came after Korea Expressway, in a consortium with Korea's Sambo Engineering Co., submitted a proposal to the Cambodian government for a road project there in October last year, it said.

The project calls for the consortium to design and supervise the improvement of two national highways and one local road and the construction of a detour in the Southeast Asian country. Completion of the project, expected to begin next month, is slated for June 2013, the company said in a statement.

Mr. Sam Rainsy Responded to Hun Sen, Saying the Cambodian Leader Himself Fakes Maps and Does Not Even Know Where the Country’s Border Is – Friday, 26.2.2010
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Posted on 26 February 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 653

“The war of words from the Cambodian Prime Minister, whose angry reaction is surprising, leads to questions among observers – when he blasted Mr. Sam Rainsy, his opponent and president of the biggest opposition party in Cambodia over border issues, it led to different reactions trying to clarify. Khmer people have questions, and national and international observers as well as diplomats want to know why the powerful Prime Minister of Cambodia cannot agree upon other ways to clarify things between Khmers and Khmers, but rather make accusations to have border documents faked.

“In a new interview with Radio Free Asia aired yesterday morning, Mr. Sam Rainsy, a parliamentarian from Cambodia and now in France to continue a mission struggling to protect the territorial integrity of Cambodia from loss, because of the improper setting of border markers, said he is doing it to respond to the Cambodian Prime Minister, Mr. Hun Sen, who accused him of faking map documents of Cambodia.

“During the interview with Radio Free Asia on 25 February 2010, Mr. Sam Rainsy stressed, ‘I know that I have a clear basis for my arguments, unlike the current leader of Cambodia. I stand on the Khmer side in these border issues. We must express that we saw them (the neighboring countries) trying to create a new border that is wrong, and they want to absorb Khmer territory. Therefore, I stand on the Khmer side as a Khmer national, and I protect the territory.’

“Mr. Sam Rainsy added, ‘Those who accused me that I am wrong and said that it is on Yuon [Vietnamese] territory [where the border markers stood] do not serve Khmer interests. Those people stand on the side of the Yuon.’

“He went on to clarify that his political struggle follows a model of major leaders of the country for the nation, which does not specify any time or place for its activities. Mr. Sam Rainsy said, ‘…Where do we stand, and for what? Do not just say what the current leader said, accusing me that I, Sam Rainsy, fake mapping documents. He himself fakes maps. He himself does not even know where the maps and where the borders of the nation are.’

“Prime Minister Hun Sen reacted in anger, using serious words accusing Mr. Sam Rainsy, who had raised border issues at the East with Vietnam, to be a traitor. It is an accusation that observers from civil society and among diplomats described as ‘too extreme.’

“Mr. Hun Sen’s reaction in anger was described by observers and by Khmer citizens in general as a mood that cannot be controlled any longer, as he said, ‘Diplomats in Cambodia, please bring this map, supposedly published on the Internet, which the opposition party is referring to, to be reviewed and compared with the real map, then we will see what will happen.’ He also announced what can be understood as a preparation to take action to arrest Mr. Sam Rainsy, to be jailed – another surprising attitude, according to various observers.

“What the Prime Minister said, whether intentionally or unintentionally, intends to show the power he has over the legislative body of Cambodia, as he said, ‘The National Assembly needs not to be afraid, because we cannot answer unclear questions, because if the questions are unclear, the answers would be also unclear’ (Sic).

“That the Prime Minister gave a clarification instead of the National Assembly [to which Mr. Son Chhay had directed this questions], and ordered the National Assembly not to give any responses to the Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians, is against the law. Therefore, the fact that he said, ‘We cannot answer an unclear questions, because if the questions are unclear, the answers will also be unclear,’ makes the responses from the government representative, Mr. Var Kimhong, at the National Assembly also unclear, just as a Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian, Mr. Son Chhay, who had asked the question, observed.

“Observers said that both Mr. Sam Rainsy and Prime Minister Hun Sen had shown an intention to review maps. Thus, the solution that the leader should provide, should not be to arrest Mr. Sam Rainsy and jail him, but they should find a third party of international standing to review the maps to bring this problem to an end.

“Analysts said that intention to have Mr. Hun Sen review the maps by diplomats, proposed by Mr. Sam Rainsy, reflects the impression that the diplomats probably view the Cambodia Prime Minister as an involved party, and assumes that they believe Mr. Sam Rainsy’s claim. Mr. Sam Rainsy said, ‘Therefore, we take the documents and put them onto the only legal map of 1952, with a scale of 1:100,000, and it will be seen that in 1985, there was no invasion at the point where we visited.’

“He described the geography of the Khmer territory in the Samraung commune, Chantrea, Svay Rieng , saying that in 1985, there was no such loss, and what was set later as the border with Vietnam overlaps the demarcation in the map of 1952, which means that territory was lost later on, and Mr. Sam Rainsy claimed it resulted from the improper use of maps and the faking of mapping documents by the border committees of the two countries, Cambodia and Vietnam.

“Different from the accusation made by Prime Minister Hun Sen and by the head of the Cambodian Border Committee, Mr. Var Kimhong, saying that Mr. Sam Rainsy used faked maps, therefore the government will sue Mr. Sam Rainsy again, Mr. Sam Rainsy explained his position, that he works with the help of technical groups for mapping, and national and international experts, specialized computer experts using modern technical devices, including satellites, and his statement, that the review of the border area in Svay Rieng had shown a loss of Cambodian territory, is based on their findings.

“This reminded an observer to recall a notice by Dr. Mathews Verghese, a Singaporean scholar, who used to be the Singaporean Ambassador to Cambodia some years ago. Mr. Verghese wrote in The Straits Times of Singapore in 2004 that the border line of Cambodia with neighboring countries is moving into Cambodian territory.

“Mr. Sam Rainsy said that he will continue his struggle abroad, like what Samdech Norodom Sihanouk did during the period of his struggles, but he will not come to Cambodia to be jailed by Yuon [Vietnam]. If there would not have been a struggle, there would not have been the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia [UNTAC], nor elections. He will follow this model, saying, ‘I use my influence. What I can do is to help until justice is given to Cambodia and to the Khmer people who are victims.’”

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.18, #1882, 26-28.2.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 26 February 2010

Tribunal Judges Admonish Ieng Sary’s Laywers

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By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
26 February 2010

Investigating judges for the Khmer Rogue tribunal on Thursday issued a stern warning to the defense team of Ieng Sary against breaking the filing rules of the UN-backed court.

Ieng Sary, the former foreign affairs minister of the regime, is facing an upcoming atrocity crimes trial, along with four other Khmer Rouge leaders currently in court detention.

Jugdes Marcel Lemonde and You Bunleng wrote in their official warning that Ieng Sary’s lawyers had broken the rules by filing “duplicitous” motions on issues already addressed by the court. They further warned the defense lawyers not to conduct “their own investigations” and ordered them to “comply” with tribunal rules.

Tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen said the sanction was a warning to the legal team. If the lawyers further violate practices on filings, they could be prevented from appearing before the court and be reported to the Cambodian Bar Association.

Ang Udom, a lawyer for Ieng Sary, called the sanction a “constraint to our freedom,” but said he was not concerned by it.

The sanction came three days after the defense team filed a complaint that claimed their client had been intimidated during the investigation into his alleged atrocity crimes.

Also on Thursday, the investigating judges sought to remind civil party applicants they can file “complementary information” through April 29. The announcement follows dissatisfaction among some victims who worried they would be left out of the tribunal process.

Meanwhile, international donors in New York on Tuesday approved a budget for the next two years of the tribunal, allocating $42 million for 2010 and $43 million for 2011, the Phnom Penh Post reported.

Government Lodges Suit Against Sam Rainsy

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By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
26 February 2010

The Cambodian government lodged a criminal complaint against opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Friday, for publishing a Vietnamese border map on his party’s Web site the government claims is false.

The complaint was filed in Phnom Penh Municipal Court by government lawyer Ky Tech on Friday. Investigating judge Sok Klyan said he had received the complaint from prosecutors on Friday, but he did not give a timeline for concluding his investigation.

The charge of disinformation carries a jail term of three years, but the charge of distributing a false public document is more serious and calls for as much as 15 years in prison.

The Sam Rainsy Party claims on its Web site the Cambodia has lost land to Vietnamese encroachment. The map on the Web site is an apparent attempt to bolster those claims.

The map was posted on the Web site after Sam Rainsy was found guilty in January for destruction of property, for uprooting markers on the Vietnamese border where villagers said they had lost land to encroachment.

Land encroachment accusations from the Thai and Vietnamese borders are political flashpoints in Cambodia. In 2003 unsubstantiated rumors that a Thai actress had claimed Angkor Wat should belong to Thailand led to rioting and the looting and burning of the Thai Embassy.

Sam Rainsy has said the map on his Web site, depicting the Cambodia-Vietnam border in 1952, is correct. On hearing the government was considering a lawsuit earlier this week, Sam Rainsy told reporters, “The court can sentence me to prison, but Cambodian cannot lose its land.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen said earlier this week Sam Rainsy was a “betrayer of the nation” for posting the map on his Web site, a serious charge in the Khmer language.

Am Sam Ath, head of investigations for the right group Adhoc, said the government “should not think about complaints against the opposition leader, because Cambodia is facing a border dispute with

Thailand. So the government and the opposition should unite to protect Cambodian sovereignty and the borders with all the neighbors.”

The complaint will bring concern to the people over Cambodia’s political situation, he said. “It is not in the interest for the whole of Cambodian society.”

For Abstract Painter, the Art of the Mind

Ancient Khmer painting, by Chhim Sothy.

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By Pich Samnang, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
26 February 2010

For painter Chhim Sothy, standing in his Phnom Penh studio, the image of three deer trying to escape a forest under destruction is clear. For others, the mix of green, red and dark yellow makes less sense.

“At first glance, the painting depicts nothing, because abstract art requires more time to understand it,” said the 41-year-old abstract artist, who is currently displaying 22 of his latest paintings at the Reyum Gallery in Phnom Penh.

It has been a long road. Born in Kandal province, Chhim Sothy received his Bachelor of Arts, in painting, in 1995, after spending 10 years at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh. After graduating, he worked for several non-governmental organizations, as a painting instructor, until moving over to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts in 1998, where he is a deputy director in the department of craftsmen.

Along the way, he practiced painting and was noted for well-balanced traditional paintings. But in recent years, he has moved to abstract painting, a contemporary art form that eschews the traditional depiction of visible realty.

“It is of course hard to read the abstract ideas in the painting, but this kind of art enables people to learn so that they can understand our mind,” he said.

Abstract art, he now argues, can make Cambodia competitive with other countries. “We cannot use our traditional paintings to compete with others, as the paintings cannot be understood internationally, so we just preserve the traditional and use the modern art to compete.”

Chhim Sothy has won several prizes in painting competitions: an Asean Art Award in Singapore, in 2002, and 1st Prize for the best painter in 2003 and 2004 from the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.

He has also displayed his paintings in galleries in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Battambang, Koh Kong and Preah Sihanouk. His abstract paintings were also displayed in the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, China, Laos, Vietnam, France and the US.

“The more difficult to understand the painting is, the better,” Chhim Sothy, said, citing the works by Vasily Kandinsky and Pablo Picasso as examples. “Their paintings were unique; thus, they cost millions of dollars,” he said.

Abstract paintings also showcase freedom inherent in art, he said. “I can express my own feelings and use my imagination through this kind of abstract art.”

Cambodia pushes out the poor

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By Joel Elliott

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Rumbling bulldozers at 2 a.m. sent residents of the Dey Krahorm community scrambling from their beds. The time for eviction had come — not of an individual, or of a family, but as the final stage in the demolition of a 1,400-family neighborhood.

Neighbors and family members tried to stop the bulldozers and excavators from tearing down their homes by linking arms and forming a human wall around their neighborhood. But they could not withstand the tear gas. They broke ranks, choking and coughing. Besides tear gas, police beat residents with electric batons and fired rubber bullets into crowds.

The January 2009 incident was caught on videotape and set the tone for a year that brought the largest number of mass evictions in Phnom Penh since 1975, when Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge evacuated the entire city in the process of killing more than 2 million Cambodians.

Over the past year, according to the Cambodia Housing Rights Task Force, a NGO dedicated to the issue, the Phnom Penh government has evicted and relocated an estimated 20,000 people, part of an increasing trend over the past decade in which poor people are being forcibly moved out of the city, and rich and powerful private companies take the land.

About 133,000 people have been evicted since 1990 from Phnom Penh alone, according to Licadho, a human rights organization, and an estimated 250,000 more have been displaced in the provinces since 2003.

"My neighbor, when he saw the truck breaking his house, he tried to jump in front of the truck and die, but another neighbor stopped him," a 19-year-old former resident, who gave only her first name, Lina, said. "The people were crying. They did not have time to take their possessions out of their homes before the men broke them down."

Lina told her story as we stood atop a nearby building, looking down on the site, now a dusty lot filled with rubble.

While those evicted in Phnom Penh are the most visible victims, land-grabbing and forced displacement is happening all over the country at an unprecedented rate, said David Pred, director of Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia, an organization that promotes human rights in the region.

"This is the most serious human rights problem in Cambodia today," Pred said of the land-grabbing. "It is not getting nearly the attention it deserves."

Pred said that more than one quarter of Cambodia's arable land has been granted to private corporations in the form of economic land concessions, displacing people from their farm lands and forests that they depend upon for their subsistence. If they have paperwork proving ownership, they might receive some sort of compensation, but most do not, according to Phearum Sia, director of the Housing Rights Task Force, another advocacy group in Phnom Penh. Renters are not compensated.

In Phnom Penh, the government usually loads those it evicts onto buses and transports them to a distant point and drops them off. The government sometimes ensures adequate housing; other times, the former residents find themselves in an empty field with nothing.

At some relocation sites, residents who worked in the city said they sometimes paid more per day in fuel costs traveling to Phnom Penh and back than they earned in a day.

Community members have occasionally protested, but these efforts sometimes backfire. A 2008 land dispute in Siem Reap between poor rice farmers and the government ended in multiple arrests and the police opening fire on a crowd of about 200 people, injuring four. Other protests fizzle before confrontation. Ghosts of the Khmer Rouge terror linger in the national psyche, Sia said.

"We work to empower the people, but the people are poor, and weak in their solidarity," Sia said. "Our communities are still affected by the Pol Pot regime. He killed without law and without justice."

Mann Chhoen, deputy governor of Phnom Penh, said he is responsible for land rights issues, but twice declined comment for this article.

Phnom Penh city police guard the sites of impending evictions and attempt to keep out NGO workers and journalists. At one site on Boeung Kak Lake, where a Cambodian development company known as Shukaku seized 3.6 hectares of land and began using the city's police force to evict the occupants, police on three occasions barred our way and threatened us with arrest for even approaching the site where several evictions were in progress.

At Dey Krahorm, 200 former residents observed the one-year anniversary of their eviction, Jan. 24, with a procession to the edge of the wall surrounding their former neighborhood. Police officers in plain clothes, their walkie-talkies peeking from beneath their polo shirts, monitored the gathering and photographed the faces of those present, but didn't try to break up the gathering.

There was no point.

The government had already destroyed their homes.

Economy | Fri, Feb 26 2010

Vietnam helps build information system for Cambodian legislature

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The National Assemblies of Vietnam and Cambodia will soon kick-start a project to install network equipment for information processing and Intranet access at all agencies of the Cambodia National Assembly.

The agreement was reached at a working session between the two countries’ legislators during a visit to Cambodia from February 22-27 by a Vietnam National Assembly delegation.

In the first phase of the US$300,000 project funded by the Vietnam National Assembly, Vietnam will supply servers, computers and transmission lines to Cambodia this year and will complete the installation of equipment for the Intranet to support information processing between Cambodia’s NA agencies during the second phase one year later.

While in Phnom Penh, the Vietnamese delegation, led by Nguyen Si Dung, deputy head of the NA Office, was received by Cambodian National Assembly Chairman Heng Samrin, who praised the effective cooperation between the two legislatures.

Chairman Heng Samrin thanked the Vietnamese Party, National Assembly and Government for providing great assistance to Cambodia in its past struggle for national liberation and in its current process of national construction.

Two hunters detained for killing endangered bantengs in northern Cambodia

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February 25,2010


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Two hunters have been detained for killing two banteng, an endangered wild cattle species, in a protected forest in northern Cambodia, an official said Thursday.

They were arrested Monday as they were butchering the animals they shot with AK-47 assault rifles near Anlong Veng, the former stronghold of deceased Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, said Tiv Sovantha, a provincial prosecutor.

He said that Bou Hoeurn and Chin Chuon could each face a five-year prison term if convicted. A third poacher is still being sought.

The banteng, which is native to Southeast Asia, is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and is protected by law in Cambodia.

Transportation in Cambodia

Cambodian vendors transport goods using motorcycle at the Cambodia-Vietnam border at Bavet in Svay Rieng province 120 km (72 miles) east of Phnom Penh, February 26, 2010 . REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian vendor transport goods on truck across the Cambodia-Vietnam border at Bavet in Svay Rieng province 120km (72miles) east of Phnom Penh, February 26, 2010 . REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Thailand braces for Thaksin ruling

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Thailand is bracing for fresh political upheaval as the country's supreme court prepares to deliver its verdict on the fortune of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister ousted in a 2006 coup.

The court is deciding whether to seize more than $2bn from Thaksin's frozen assets.

But in his stronghold in the north of the country, he the former PM is as popular as ever.

Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay reports from the northern Thai town of Udon Thani (24 Feb 2010).

Journalists Reveal Horrors of Treatment of Women

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Srey Rath, a 15 year old Cambodian girl, wanted to earn money for her family by washing dishes in Thailand. Instead, the man who promised her the job sold her into a brothel, where fighting back just meant more beatings and rape.

Woineshet Zebene, a 13 year old girl from Ethiopia, was peacefully sleeping in her hut, when four men stormed in and kidnapped her. Battering and raping went on for two days until she finally escaped. Upon her return to the village, she was expected to marry one of her rapists, Aberew Jemma.

Dina, a 17 year old from Kindu, Congo, was returning home from her farm, when five militia men surrounded her. They told her, if she screamed, she will be dead. All five of them, one after the other raped her. When she was pinned down, one of the men forced a stick inside her.

What do all of these stories have in common? Oppression of women.

Whether it’s a mother killing her baby girl because she believes girls are unlucky, or a militia man thinking that he has the right to rape any woman he desires, tyranny towards females exists. The trick is not to only change the law, but to change people’s points of view through education.

Nicholas D. Kristof, NY Times journalist and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, former NY Times journalist and editor, portray in their new nonfiction book, Half the Sky, how, if given the opportunity, women can shine even in the darkest corners of life.

The title is part of an ancient Chinese proverb: Women hold up half the sky. I’m guessing the other half lies on the shoulders of men. When either side falls, it’s harder for those who are still standing. Just like the 13 colonies – ‘United we stand, divided we fall’.

The shock of statistics in each chapter is personalized with an individual story giving the whole book a more humane feeling. Photographs of women and girls throughout the book make reading their life trials feel as though they are right beside me.

Kristof compares oppression of women to slavery. Just like there was a beginning for equality with the Emancipation Proclamation, this could possibly be the beginning for emancipating women and girls worldwide. The quote in chapter two in Half the Sky cleverly analyzes slavery. “Although volume upon volume is written to prove slavery a very good thing, we never hear of the man who wishes to take the good of it, by being a slave himself,” said Abraham Lincoln.

Kristof came into a brothel in western Cambodia and pretended he was a customer. The woman pimp sold him a girl, Srey Neth, for $150 and gave him a receipt. What shocked me the most was when I realized over the weekend I found this amazing pair of shoes for $145, which I didn’t purchase. If I bought them I would have my shoes and a receipt, and Kristof bought a human being for almost the same price and has a receipt. I can’t wrap my head around the idea that I can buy a woman for $150 and own her.

Of course Kristof bought Srey Neth and another girl, Srey Momm, for $203 only so they can go back to their families. Unfortunately, buying them is the easy part. Because girls are usually dependent on drugs that pimps give them, they return to the brothels voluntarily..

Compared to the prenatal care in the U.S., where practically every inch is though out and planned even before the pregnancy, for many women in Africa becoming pregnant is a death sentence. One woman dies of childbirth around the world every minute.

Every person should read this book. It’s not only inspiring but also real because while reading I wanted some parts to be surreal. All these women, who survived rape, beatings, acid burns, fistulas, and more, and are still able to not give up and turn their horrific experience into strength - truly hold up half the sky.

Cambodia to again sue opposition leader Sam Rainsy

via CAAI News Media

Friday, 26 February 2010

Mr Rainsy says the charges are an attempt to silence the opposition

The Cambodian government has filed a new lawsuit against leading opposition figure Sam Rainsy.

The government accuses Mr Rainsy of forging public documents and spreading false information about a border dispute with Vietnam.

Mr Rainsy, who is living in exile, was given a two-year jail term last month for a political protest in which markers along the border were uprooted.

He could face up to 18 years in prison if found guilty of the latest charges.

"The lawsuit involves forging public documents and publicising disinformation related to the forgery of a map in order to manipulate the public over the border issue with Vietnam," government lawyer Ky Tech told the AFP news agency.

'Political tool'

In January, Mr Rainsy was given the two-year jail term in his absence for encouraging villagers to uproot the border markings.

He did not attend the hearing, saying in an e-mail believed to have been sent from France, that the case against him was politically motivated.

"The court in Cambodia is just a political tool for the ruling party to crack down on the opposition," he said.

"I will let this politically subservient court prosecute me in absentia because its verdict is known in advance."

Cambodia and Vietnam officially began demarcating their contentious border in September 2006, in a bid to end decades of territorial disputes.

The 1,270-kilometre (790-mile) border has remained essentially unmarked and vague since French colonial times, with stone markers and boundary flags having disappeared, while trees once lining it were cut down.

Mr Rainsy's party accuses the Cambodian government of ceding territory to its larger and more powerful neighbour.

Thailand undaunted over Hun Sen's planned border visit: Suthep
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BANGKOK, Feb 26 (TNA) - Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban on Friday downplayed concerns over the planned weekend visit of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to Cambodian troops near the Thai border, saying security measures along the border have been well-prepared.

Mr Suthep, who oversees national security, commented following news reports of Cambodian English-language newspaper the Phnom Penh Post that Mr Hun Sen will visit his troops near the Thai border in Battambang province on Saturday, while soldiers in Kampong Chhnang province will also conduct military exercises and will test launch BM-21 rockets on March 5.

The deputy Thai premier said it is normal for Mr Hun Sen to travel wherever he wants, but the Thai government has already put security measures in place along the Thai-Cambodian border. He suggested there was no need for anything in addition.

"I don't believe that the arms test will threaten Thailand's security," Mr Suthep said. "The Thai army stands ready to protect our national sovereignty."

Mr Hun Sen was earlier quoted as telling a Phnom Penh newspaper that the rocket tests are aimed to strengthen the abilities of the country's military. Though the rockets are capable of travelling 40 km, troops would normally fire them at less than half the distance.

“We are not flexing our muscles – this is work to strengthen the abilities of the military in national defence,” Mr Hun Sen said.

The Cambodian leader, who earlier described Mr Thaksin as his true friend, appointing him adviser to the Cambodian government, however dismissed accusations that his trip is linked to Thailand's court verdict on the Bt76 billion (US$2.3 billion) frozen assets of his friend on Friday, saying this weekend's planned visit is a "normal" visit to the soldiers--do not try to link the problems in Bangkok on February 26 to my visit on February 27.”

Early this month, the Cambodian premier visited his troops stationed near the Thai border and the ancient Preah Vihear temple, claiming that the visit is aimed at boosting the spirit of the Cambodian troops.

But he was denied entry by Thai authorities to the Ta Muen Thom ruins which located in Thailand's Surin province for safety concerns as supporters of anti-Thaksin movement People's Alliance for Democracy were rallying not far from the renowned ruins. (TNA)

Cambodia opens luxury casino

via CAAI News Media
Feb 26, 2010

PHNOM PENH (Cambodia) - CAMBODIA opened a luxury, US$100 million casino on Friday hoping to attract more foreign tourists and promote its fast-growing entertainment industry, casino owners said.

The Titan King Casino, located along the Vietnam border, is one of a number that have sprung up along the country's frontiers with Vietnam and Thailand, attracting thousands of gamblers.

The Ministry of Finance says Cambodia earned US$19 million from 29 casinos in 2008. But revenue fell to US$17 million in 2009 because of a decline in tourist arrivals and a border dispute with Thailand.

The Titan King Casino is owned by Mr Kith Thieng, a business tycoon close to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

In a message posted on the casino's website, Mr Kith Thieng said the town of Bavet, where the casino is located, was fast becoming an entertainment centre, 'much like Las Vegas and Macau'. Bavet is 68 miles (110 kilometres) south-east of the capital Phnom Penh.

Mr Hear Sopheaktra, assistant to the owner, said the casino would help attract more foreign tourists. -- AP

Cambodia has an eco project with bite

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Graeme Green
26th February, 2010

‘Cobra!’my Cambodian guide Leeheng yells. The warning comes just in time: I leap sideways as the oil-black snake slithers past and continues oblivious along the riverbank.

Village life: Local women get down to some planting

I’d nearly trodden on another cobra earlier in the day but that – a mere two-footer – was a tiddler in comparison; the snake that just passed within easy biting range was two metres long and thick as a bodybuilder’s bicep. It was the kind of deadly, ‘isn’t she a beauty?’ monster Steve Irwin used to wrestle. The local ‘joke’ is that if one of these bites, you have just enough time to make one last phone call to your loved ones.

If you like plush hotels, then the jungle village of Chi Phat in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains isn’t for you. During my time here, I’m caked in mud, snacked on by mosquitoes and regularly watching leeches fall from my body, bloated on my blood. But for the committed traveller keen to genuinely get off the beaten track, this is an authentic slice of rural Cambodian life. The people in the village are welcoming and curious, the trekking through pristine jungle and meadows is a world away from mundane realities, and the big draw, which I’m here to test out, is a 57km mountain-biking trail that takes in an ancient burial jar site.

All this has a purpose: Wildlife Alliance is working on a reforestation project here to replace large areas of trees lost to logging; the Chi Phat Community Based Ecotourism Project provides alternative sources of income for locals (as guides, mechanics, chefs…) to reduce poverty and help stop illegal logging and hunting.

The riverside village has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. In the mornings children walk or cycle to school along the muddy main road, calling out ‘hello’ as I pass; at night, people gather in bars to watch kick-boxing on TV or sit on porches talking with family and friends.

I stay with a local family in one of six homestays. Facilities are basic (the ‘shower’ is a barrel of cold water and a plastic saucepan) and the lack of a shared language makes conversation difficult but I spend a pleasant evening on the porch with my hosts, sharing their locally made rice wine, which has a hefty kick in any language.

The near-cobra experience aside, my two-day trek with local guides Leeheng and Sok is incredibly peaceful. The only sounds as we hike through dense wet jungle are bird calls and gibbons whooping in the trees. We camp overnight in hammocks, under a piece of tarp, before returning to the village, where Sok (below) cuts three coconuts down from the trees – we stick straws in and they’re good to go.

We start out early to beat the heat. Like most good fun, the mountain biking is diverse, adventurous and a bit dirty. The circuit follows old logging trails through jungle, open fields, grassy meadows and thigh-deep streams. At the top of Khnang O’Ampov mountain, we park and climb a slippery path, gripping on to overgrown vines. We’re halfway through a pitch-black tunnel when I realise the thick layer of sludge under my hands is made up of decades of bat droppings; I can hear the winged beasts flapping overhead. Emerging at the other end, Sok points out small coffins in a thin gap in the rock. Further down, perched on rocky ledges, are several mysterious ancient burial jars containing skeletal remains thought to be more than 500 years old, possibly Khmer heroes or royalty, though no one knows their exact origins.

The Chi Phat project is still rough around the edges – there were a few glitches with arrangements and local staff are still getting up to speed in terms of providing tourism services. The level of English spoken is also low, which is a real shame as the guides are unable to share their vast knowledge of the local area. All that should change with time, though, as more visitors come here for a raw, real experience of life in an unspoilt, little-known Cambodian village. One day travellers might even boast they were in Chi Phat before it became too touristy.

* Asia Adventures ( offers four-day packages to Chi Phat from Phnom Penh from £110 per person. Travellers can book homestays and activities at Chi Phat (www.mountain To get to Cambodia, we used (Tel: 0871 222 9483) which has return flights with Malaysian Airways from Heathrow to Phnom Penh from £574pp. For more on Wildlife Alliance, visit

* Phnom Penh: Cambodia’s capital means dodging motos on the city streets, sampling fish amok (coconut curry) on the riverfront and walking alongside orange- robed monks in front of the Royal Palace. Check out the huge emerald Buddha in the Silver Pagoda’s treasure room.

* Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum: Phnom Penh’s Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is housed in former school buildings that were used for detention and torture. Nearby, the infamous ‘killing fields’ are grim reminders of the atrocities committed under Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.

* Angkor temples: A World Heritage Site, the massive temple complex of Angkor Wat is one of many archaeological sites worth checking out in the area. Angkor Thom, featuring large-scale face designs, and Ta Prohm, where parts of the Tomb Raider films were shot, are also must-sees.

* TonlĂ© Sap: The TonlĂ© Sap (Great Lake) is the biggest lake in Asia, covering up to 16,000 sq km during the wet season. It is home to traditional floating villages and the remote twitcher’s paradise, Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary.

* Kep: Unwind in this small, quiet seaside town, where there’s little to do but rest on the beach and scoff fresh seafood, washed down with a cold glass of Angkor beer.

Cambodia files new suit against opposition leader

The Cambodian government has filed a fresh lawsuit against the country's fugitive opposition leader, Sam Rainsy (pictured), over claims he forged and published a false map of the border with neighbouring Vietnam. (AFP/File/Sreng Meng Srun)

via CAAI News Media

Fri Feb 26

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – The Cambodian government Friday filed a fresh lawsuit against the country's fugitive opposition leader over claims he forged and published a false map of the border with neighbouring Vietnam.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who lives in self-imposed exile in France, was sentenced in absentia last month to two years in prison over a related conviction for uprooting border posts and inciting racial discrimination.

The new lawsuit was filed with Phnom Penh Municipal Court, government lawyer Ky Tech told AFP.

"The lawsuit involves forging public documents and publicising disinformation related to the forgery of a map in order to manipulate the public over the border issue with Vietnam," Ky Tech said.

In his January conviction, Sam Rainsy and two villagers were found guilty of intentionally damaging temporary border posts last October.

In the new case he is accused of posting a "fake map" of the border on his party's website, which the government says depicts incorrect border markings with Vietnam.

No formal map has yet been agreed between the two countries.

Sam Rainsy could face up to 15 years in prison for forging public documents and up to three years in jail for disseminating false information if convicted, the lawyer said.

Neither he nor his party spokesman could be reached for comment.

Cambodia and Vietnam officially began demarcating their contentious border in September 2006 after decades of territorial disputes.

Anti-Vietnamese sentiment in Cambodia in rife, fuelled by resentment at Vietnam's expansion over the centuries and the feeling that Cambodia is losing some of its territory.

But Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen maintains close relations with the Vietnamese regime and Sam Rainsy, whose party shares his name, has repeatedly accused the government of ceding land to Vietnam.

Vietnam and Cambodia share a 1,270-kilometre (790-mile) border, which has remained vague since French colonial times.

French-educated former finance minister Sam Rainsy is the main rival to Hun Sen. He has promised to promote liberal democracy and human rights, raise wages and fight corruption if elected.

Hun Sen this week accused Sam Rainsy of treachery for trying to stir up problems at the Vietnamese border while Cambodia is already embroiled in a bitter border dispute with Thailand.

Thai court to rule on ex-leader Thaksin’s wealth

A supporter of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, reacts as Thailand's Supreme Court started reading its ruling on the former Thai leader's wealth at the Pheu Thai Party building in Bangkok on Friday. Photo: AP

via CAAI News Media

BANGKOK, February 26, 2010

Thailand’s highest court convened on Friday to rule whether deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, should lose part of his fortune for alleged corruption, with a decision either way unlikely to end four years of sometimes—violent political strife.

Tight security was in place around the courthouse, amid government fears that Thaksin loyalists could react to the verdict with violence. The decision was not expected for several hours after the Thai stock market closes for the day.

Nine judges of the Supreme Court are broadly applying mostly untested anti—corruption statutes in determining whether Mr. Thaksin - a telecommunications tycoon before entering politics - became “unusually wealthy” by abusing his position at the head of government from 2001—2006.

They could order the confiscation of the $2.9 billion of his family’s assets frozen in Thai banks. Mr. Thaksin and an unknown portion of his family’s wealth are safely ensconced abroad.

Mr. Thaksin, ousted in a 2006 coup and facing a jail term in Thailand, was monitoring the proceedings from exile in Dubai, where he was scheduled to provide a running commentary via video link.

In a message on Twitter early Friday, Mr. Thaksin insisted all the money he and has family accumulated were “with our own sweat, labour and brains. We never cheated.”

The government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is hoping Friday’s decision will lead to a return of stability, but has ordered a security crackdown around the country, claiming that the pro—Thaksin “Red Shirt” movement may be planning violence.

“We hope for the best,” said government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn. “Of course many people fear for the worst but we are ready to manage whatever comes.”

The judges will look at whether Mr. Thaksin illegally parked his fortune with family members because he was not allowed to hold company shares while prime minister, and whether his administration implemented policies to benefit his family’s businesses, an offense that has been termed “policy corruption.”

Issues include whether telecoms liberalization measures unfairly benefited the country’s main mobile phone service provider, then controlled by Mr. Thaksin’s family; and whether he unfairly promoted a US$127 million low—interest loan to neighbouring Myanmar to benefit a satellite communications company also controlled by his family.

Mr. Thaksin’s critics would see a guilty verdict as the culmination of a process to cleanse Thai politics that began with protests in 2006 calling for Mr. Thaksin’s ouster for alleged corruption that segued into a military coup in September that year. They also accused him of disrespecting the country’s constitutional monarch, 82—year—old King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

His supporters would see such a ruling as the latest in a series of injustices that illegally drove a democratically elected leader from office despite two sweeping election victories. They believe he is being persecuted because the traditional urban ruling class felt threatened when he empowered the country’s rural majority, which was grateful for Mr. Thaksin’s innovative social welfare programs.

The passions held by the two sides led to the occupation of the seat of government for several months and seizure of the capital’s two airports for a week by Mr. Thaksin’s opponents in 2008, and rioting and disruption of a conference of Asian heads of government by his supporters last year.

His “Red Shirt” supporters continue to rally on his behalf, and have promised a “million—man” march for next month.

Mr. Thaksin, who fled into exile ahead of a 2008 conviction on a conflict of interest charge that dealt him a two—year jail sentence, rallies his followers by video and over the Internet.

His opponents accuse him of funding the Red Shirt movement to topple the government, and hope that seizing his assets will starve the movement.

But at least one analyst says the anti—government movement will not simply fade away, even if Mr. Thaksin’s cash dries up.

“It would not put an end to Thailand’s crisis because now Mr. Thaksin’s supporters, the Red Shirts - the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship - they have evolved into their own force to be reckoned with,” says Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist from Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.

Thaksin Shinawatra: from phone billionaire to fugitive ex-prime minister

Leader accused by military of corruption but popular with rural poor

Ben Doherty
The Guardian, Friday 26 February 2010

Thaksin Shinawatra, whose appointment as an economic adviser to Cambodia infuriated the Thai governmenbt. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

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Born to a silk-trading family in Chiang Mai, Thaksin Shinawatra began his working life as a policeman. After several failed business ventures, in 1989 he established Shinawatra Datacom, a mobile phone network business that was to become the biggest phone operator in Thailand, and make him a multibillionaire.

He entered politics in 1994, becoming foreign minister that same year. He was elected prime minister in the general election of 2001, and became hugely popular, particularly in the north and north-east of the country, enfranchising the rural poor, and offering them healthcare for 30 baht (60p) and low-cost loans. He won a second election in 2005 but was swept from power in a bloodless coup in 2006 by a military leadership that argued he was corrupt, but was increasingly fearful of his growing popularity and power.

In 2008 he was convicted of a conflict of interest over a land deal involving his wife. He was sentenced to two years' jail, but had fled the country before the verdict was delivered. A fugitive, he now lives in Dubai and serves, to the fury of the Thai government, as an economic adviser to neighbouring Cambodia.

He is best-known in Britain for his short-lived ownership of Manchester City football club.

Exports to S. Korea Soar as Rubber Begins to Take Off

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Web Editor: Hu Weiwei

Cambodian exports to South Korea surged 391 percent in January compared with the same month last year to 4.33 million U.S. dollars amid an overall rise in bilateral trade between the two countries, local media reported on Friday.

Total trade was up 77 percent to 27.715 million U.S. dollars. Imports from South Korea climbed 58.2 percent to 23.39 million U.S. dollars as economic activity rebounded from the very low base at the start of 2009, when the economic crisis was at its height in the Kingdom, according to the figures of Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA). Last January, trade between the two countries declined 20 percent.

Korea Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia Chairman Nam Shik-kang was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying that rising demand from North America -- Cambodia's main export market -- likely helped spur the recovery in trade.

Natural rubber was by far Cambodia's biggest export to South Korea last month, accounting for more than 50 percent of total bilateral exports at 2.357 million U.S. dollars.

Nam Shik-kang said Thursday he expected bilateral trade to rise 20 percent this year after declining 5.51 percent in 2009, although he said that logistical and electricity costs in Cambodia are "too expensive compared to neighbouring countries."

Cambodian exports rose 26 percent last year while imports from South Korea dropped 7 percent.

South Korea is the second-largest source of visitors to the Kingdom, next to Vietnam, according to Ministry of Tourism figures, although before the downturn it had been the top source.