Sunday, 14 March 2010

Thai forces brace for trouble as Thaksin supporters converge


March 12, 2010

THAILAND - Some 50,000 troops are standing by for large-scale anti-government protests in Bangkok. The protestors, supporters of Thailand's ousted prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, have vowed to ...

THAILAND - Some 50,000 troops are standing by for large-scale anti-government protests in Bangkok. The protestors, supporters of Thailand's ousted prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, have vowed to bring down the current government.

Red Shirt mini-rallies in capital end before Sunday mass protest to force parliament dissolution

via CAAI News Media

BANGKOK, March 12 (TNA) - Thousands of anti-government Red Shirt demonstrators led by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) on Friday converged at various locations in the capital ahead of Sunday's mass rally aiming to force Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve parliamant and call a fresh election.

Pol Maj-Gen Piya Utayo, spokesman for the Metropolitan Police, said some 6,500 Red Shirts gathered at five areas since noon before dispersing in the evening. There was no report of any incident or major traffic disruption in the capital.

The UDD leaders said more Red Shirts were travelling from provinces nationwide over the weekend and the number could reach a million at their Sunday rally.

The anti-government rallies came just two weeks after Thailand's Supreme Court court ruled that US$1.4 billion of Mr Thaksin's ill-gotten frozen assets must be seized. The pro-Thaksin Red Shirts cried foul over the court's decision, saying the former prime minister was treated unfairly under what they branded as the government's "double standards."

Mr Thaksin, living in self-exile abroad after escaping his jail term in Bangkok, addressed his supporters on many occasions, urging them to come out to join the mass rally in the capital.

Following reports that the ousted prime minister has been evicted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government, Chavanont Intarakomalsut, secretary to Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, confirmed that Mr Thaksin left Dubai by his private jet and arrived Cambodia's Siem Riep Friday morning.

Mr Chavanont said the Thai foreign ministry has already coordinated with the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh to monitor the ex-premier's moves.

Mr Kasit on Wednesday asked the UAE ambassador to Thailand to report to the UAE government the fact that Mr Thaksin has been using the UAE as his base for political activities aiming to overthrow the Thai government.

Meanwhile, Noppadon Pattama, legal adviser to Mr Thaksin, denied reports of the fugitive ex-premier's eviction, saying that the UAE has neither had any problem, nor mentioned Thai domestic politics with the fugitive.

Mr Noppadon however said the ex-premier will travel to Europe in the next few days to meet with his two daughters who are attending an exhibition in Germany.

However Mr Noppadon refused to state clearly in which country Mr Thaksin will stay, citing security concerns, while asserting that the ousted premier will not enter Cambodia during the Red Shirt protest.

"I reaffirm that Mr Thaksin's trip has nothing to do with the meeting between foreign minister Kasit and the UAE ambassador," said Mr Noppadon."Mr Thaksin asked me to tell the public that wherever he will be, in Africa or any corner in this world, he can contact his Red Shirt
supporters via phone-in anytime."

Meanwhile, UDD core leader Nattawut Saikua warned that if the prime minister did not decide to dissolve House of Parliament by March 14-15, a million Red Shirts would block roads around Bangkok to paralyse the capital, but the prime minister shrugged off the threat, saying his government would not bow to any intimidation but would maintain law and order.

Key red shirt figure Weng Tojirakarn, who joined the protest at the 11th Infantry Regiment, said he was contacted by the Prime Minister’s Secretary-General Korbsak Sabhavasu as the government's leading negotiator.

Mr Weng said Mr Korbsak had no clear stance, so he did not think Mr Korbsak could negotiate on behalf of the government and that the government was not sincere to talk with the protesters.

Mr Korbsak said he was assigned to cooperate not to negotiate with the Red Shirts, said Mr Weng.

In a related development, the Bank of Thailand (BoT) reported six commercial banks announced the temporary closure of nine branches in the capital on Friday and some on weekend. In addition, two branches of Bangkok Bank in Bangna and Phan Fah and two branches of the Government Housing Bank on Rajdanmoen Avenue closed Friday afternoon. (TNA)

Violence against Women Becomes More Cruel – Saturday, 13.3.2010

via CAAI News Media

Posted on 13 March 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 655

“Reports presented by women’s organizations show that violence against women appears more cruel, where even fathers rape their daughters.

“In the morning of 12 March 2010, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, in collaboration with the Open Institute, organized a consultative meeting about wider participation to develop the National Action Plan to Prevent Violence against Women, and many women’s organizations attended the meeting, presided over by a Secretary of State of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Ms. Sy Define.

“According to the representatives of the organizations that participated in the discussions, violence against women, especially rape, domestic violence, and the trafficking of women and children, continue. Worst of all, even fathers rape their daughters. This shows that violence against women appears in more and more cruel forms.

“The executive director of the Open Institute, Ms. Chim Manavy, said that this important meeting was organized with the aim to reflect about violence against women, to show how to use Information and Telecommunication Technology (ICT) in relation to violence against women, and to discuss the roles and strategies of women’s organizations, and the ways how to cooperate with the Royal Government, to implement the National Action Plan to Prevent Violence against Women in cooperation together.

“During a former, the first, meeting, there had been discussions about violence against women and the intersection between violence against women and ICT, so as to encourage the publication of information about violence against women through the media.

“Ms. Sy Define said during the meeting that the strategies promoting a wider participation between state institutions and civil society organizations to collaboratively implement the National Action Plan to Prevent Violence against Women needs further deliberations, while the importance and the efficiency of the use of ICT to prevent violence against women and children is recognized.

“Ms. Sy Define added that this conference is to open the view of different actors with the same goal of cooperation and of proper strategies, so that separate strategies of civil society organizations become cross-field participation, especially in the review of the usefulness and the potential of the use of technological information infrastructure.”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2200, 13.3.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 13 March 2010

Day of anti-government protests passes quietly in Thailand

Supporters of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra take to the streets Friday in Bangkok. AP

via CAAI News Media

Concerns remain, though, about proposed ‘Million Man March’ on Sunday

Thanyarat Doksone

Bangkok — The Associated Press
Published on Friday, Mar. 12, 2010

A day of anti-government protests around Thailand passed peacefully Friday, though concerns remained about possible violence when demonstrators converge in the country's capital for a “million man march” Sunday.

There had been fears of gridlock on the roads in Bangkok, but the city instead saw lighter than usual traffic as many school and businesses closed in anticipation of possible trouble. Gatherings of the so-called Red Shirts at several points in the capital were also smaller than expected, ranging from several hundred to about 4,000 at most.

The Red Shirts, formally known as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, comprise followers of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, along with other people who oppose the 2006 military coup that toppled him.

They seek to have the current prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, call a new election which they believe will allow their political allies to regain power. They believe that Mr. Abhisit came to power illegitimately with the connivance of the military and other parts of the traditional Thai ruling class, who were jealous and fearful of Mr. Thaksin's popularity while in office in 2001-2006.

Thailand has been in a state of constant political turmoil since early 2006, when demonstrations accusing Mr. Thaksin of corruption and abuse of power were launched. In 2008, when Mr. Thaksin's political allies came back to power for a year, his opponents occupied the prime minister's office compound for three months and seized Bangkok's two airports for a week.

Although Friday's crowds seemed low even in comparison to past Red Shirt events, organizers claimed to be pleased.

“Today's gatherings have exceeded our goals in terms of numbers. We expected only 2,000 people to show up at each point, but a lot more have come,” said Weng Tojirakarn, a protest leader. “Hundreds and hundreds of cars and motorcycles have come out to the streets. We decided not to waste too much of their energy and dispersed early.”

Thousands of red-shirted protesters on motorcycles and pickup trucks some clogged streets around Bangkok before gathering at scattered rally sites, including the national police headquarters. One group of several hundred rallied outside an army command center on the outskirts of Bangkok where Mr. Abhisit was monitoring the day's events, and then dispersed peacefully.

“As long as there is no justice, Thailand cannot be united,” Jaran Ditthapichai, a Red Shirt leader, told the crowd outside the police headquarters. “We want the power to be returned to the people.”

The Red Shirts have vowed to keep their protest nonviolent — and some in Bangkok carried single stem roses that they handed to policemen. However, the group's last major protest in Bangkok last April deteriorated into rioting that left two people killed, more than 120 people injured and buses burned on major thoroughfares. The army was called in to quash the unrest.

The government, while saying it will honor the right to gather for peaceful protest, has set up roadblocks at all main access points to the capital, and has been stopping and searching cars for weapons. A force of 50,000 soldiers, police and other security was mobilized for the Bangkok area.

To help cope with the problem of too many vehicles entering the capital, the government has even offered to bus demonstrators in from the city's outskirts, where they can park their pickup trucks.

The Red Shirts will again rally in Bangkok on Saturday, though that will mostly be a travel day for demonstrators coming in from far-flung rural provinces. They say they hope to gather 400,000-600,000 people to all come together Sunday on Bangkok's Rajdamnoen Avenue, a venue that has been the site of the country's most important political protests of the past 50 years.

Red Shirt leaders have been vague about how long they hope to keep the protest running, preferring to say they believe the government will step down and call new polls within just a few days.

While violence was avoided at the rallies, a senior police officer nearing retirement after serving more than 30 years in Thailand's violent deep south was killed Friday by suspected Muslim insurgents.

The political jockeying by Mr. Thaksin's supporters and opponents has overshadowed a Muslim separatist insurgency in Thailand's three southernmost provinces. Police said Col. Sompien Eksomya, a district superintendent, was killed after insurgents ambushed the pickup truck in which he was traveling.

Col. Sompien attracted national attention recently when he came to the capital Bangkok to plead with Mr. Vejjajiva to expedite a transfer to a more peaceful province until he retired.

Thaksin protesters rally to Thai capital

via CAAI News Media

by Boonradom Chitradon, AAP March 13, 2010

Tens of thousands of supporters of deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra streamed through military checkpoints outside the capital on Saturday as they headed to a rally aimed at toppling the government.

Thai authorities have deployed a 50,000-strong security force, including soldiers, to patrol the streets and search protesters entering the city, as they fear some could incite trouble ahead of Sunday's main rally.

Up to 20,000 protesters in their signature red shirts passed through the busiest checkpoint in Ayutthaya, 80 kilometres north of Bangkok, on Saturday morning, the provincial governor told AFP.

Governor Withaya Pewpong said another 15,000 Red Shirts, waving red flags and travelling mostly by pick-up truck and car, were expected to enter the city via the northern post, manned by 700 unarmed soldiers and police.

"The protesters have been cooperating well with the security officials who are focused on looking for weapons and explosives and checking identity cards," Withaya said.

Organisers insist the protests will be peaceful, but the government has enacted the strict Internal Security Act to monitor the rally, allowing authorities to set up checkpoints, impose curfews and limit movements.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who has refused to bow to the protesters' demand to step down and call elections, spoke to reporters after meeting with ministers and top brass at a military barracks on Saturday.

"We should not be complacent because there are some groups of people still wanting to create violence and cause confrontations," said Abhisit, who has cancelled a weekend trip to Australia because of the rally.

Around 6,500 protesters attended early demonstrations at several spots in Bangkok on Friday that passed without major incident, police said.

Red Shirt organisers set up a rally stage near government ministry buildings on Saturday and police said about 1,000 demonstrators had arrived at the venue ahead of the official start of the rally at midday on Sunday.

The government has lowered its estimate of expected turnout at the rally to 70,000, but the Red Shirts say the figure will be nearer 600,000.

The protests come two weeks after Thailand's top court confiscated $US1.4 billion ($A1.53 billion) of Thaksin's assets, and are the latest chapter in a political crisis that has beset Thailand since Thaksin was toppled in a 2006 coup.

Thaksin, who has been living mostly in Dubai to escape a two-year jail term for corruption at home, has been egging on his supporters using text messages and his Twitter page.

"Thank you for your dedication.... I want to give my support to the people in the north," he told his followers on Twitter Saturday, before announcing that he was about to fly from Dubai to Europe to see his two daughters.

The protest is set to be the biggest since the Red Shirts rioted in Bangkok in April last year, leaving two dead and scores injured.

The Red Shirts mainly represent Thailand's rural poor, who benefited from Thaksin's populist policies and say Abhisit's government is elitist, military-backed and has ignored their democratic rights.

Thaksin, by contrast, is loathed by the rival royalist "Yellow Shirts" backed by Bangkok's establishment, who accuse him of corruption and of lacking loyalty to the revered royal family.

Thirty-five countries have issued travel warnings for Thailand because of the protests, according to the country's tourism authority.

Analysts say the number of Red Shirts who actually turn up will be key to deciding whether they have any chance of pushing out the government before Thailand's next elections, due in December 2011.

Thaksin leaves Dubai for Switzerland

via CAAI News Media

Published: 13/03/2010

Fugitive, ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra has left Dubai and is expected to join his daughters in Switzerland, said Panich Vikitsreth, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, on Saturday.

Mr Panich said in a telephone interview with the Thai News Agency that Mr Thaksin was not travelling to Cambodia as reported. He said the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government has informed Thailand that Mr Thaksin had left Dubai.

He added the UAE had acknowledged Thailand's request to ban Mr Thaksin, whose government was ousted in a bloodless coup in September 2006, from using the UAE as a springboard in attacking the Thai government.

“It’s still unclear which country Mr Thaksin is heading,” said Mr Panich, noting that the ousted premier was using Montenegro and Nicaraguan passports. It is believed that he would join his daughters who have travelled to Switzerland.

According to Mr Panich, Mr Thaksin’s ex-wife Pojaman Na Pombejra and her son journeyed to Hong Kong last week, while former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, a brother-in-law of Mr Thaksin, has reportedly travelled to Cambodia.

Mr Thaksin’s latest movement comes as protesters of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship who are his staunch supporters are holding a major rally in the Thai capital to oust the coalition government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and calling for a fresh election.

Thaksin insists he's in Europe, not Cambodia

via CAAI News Media

Published on March 14, 2010

Thaksin Shinawatra last night told his red-shirt followers that he was currently in Europe, not Cambodia as speculated earlier.

During a phone-in to his supporters' People TV station, the fugitive former prime minister also dismissed a government report that the United Arab Emirates had expelled him.

Dubai, one of the seven emirates, has been Thaksin's residence over the past year.

Thaksin said he would phone in again today.

Meanwhile, the court yesterday approved an arrest warrant for Arisman Pongruangrong, a key red-shirt figure, for instigating riots.

Arisman last night joined the anti-government rally's main stage on Rajdamnoen Avenue along with other red-shirt leaders, who said he would surrender to the police on April 1.

Empowering Women Benefits All, Clinton Says

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that human rights are women's rights, and vice versa.

March 13, 2010
By Nikola Krastev

UNITED NATIONS -- Fifteen years ago in Beijing, 189 countries adopted a "platform for action" that pledged to increase women's access to education, health care, jobs, and credit, and to protect their right to live free from violence.

On the final day of a special UN session on women's empowerment, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke about the progress the world has made toward meeting those goals, the work that is left to do, and the critical role that women play in achieving the foreign-policy goals of the United States:

"Women worldwide are working hard to do their part to improve the status of women and girls," Clinton said at UN headquarters in New York on March 12. "And in so doing they're also improving the status of families, communities and countries."

In her speech, Clinton emphasized the sometimes unsung work of millions of women around the world who are running domestic violence shelters and fighting human trafficking, who are rescuing girls from brothels in Cambodia, who are campaigning for public office in Kuwait, who are healing women injured in childbirth in Ethiopia, who are providing legal aid to women in China, and who are running schools for refugees from Burma.

Though their efforts may not always be visible, she said, women are the real heroes during global calamities and upheavals. Clinton said women have proven they will seize opportunities to improve their own and their families' lives. Since the ground-breaking UN conference in Beijing, she said, some "real gains" have been made toward women's empowerment.

"Today more girls are in school, more women hold jobs and serve in public office," she said. "And as women have gained the chance to work, learn and participate in their societies -- their economic, political and social contributions have multiplied."

Clinton said in many countries laws that once permitted the unequal treatment of women have been replaced by laws that recognize their equality. Unfortunately, Clinton noted, in many countries existing laws that provide for equal gender treatment are often disregarded when applied to women.

Clinton pointed out that women are the majority of the world's farmers, but are often forbidden from owning the land they tend to every day. Furthermore, she said they are also prevented from accessing the credit lines they need to make those farms more productive.

The new target, Clinton said, is to equate women with progress. "We must declare with one voice that women's progress is human progress," she said. "And humans' progress is women's progress, once and for all."

Women In U.S. Policy

Clinton said there is compelling evidence that when women are free to develop their talents, all people benefit -- women and men, boys and girls. When women are free to vote and run for public office -- governments are more effective and responsive to their people. When women are free to earn a living and start small businesses, she said, the data shows that they become the key drive for economic growth.

The suffering of women and the denial of their rights, Clinton said, go hand in hand with the instability of nations. Afghanistan and Pakistan, she said, are two glaring examples.

"The women of Afghanistan have to be involved at every step in securing and rebuilding their country," Clinton said. "Our stabilization strategy for both, Afghanistan and Pakistan includes a 'women's action plan' that promotes women's leadership in both the public and private sectors."

The U.S.-sponsored plan also increases women's access to education, health, and justice in these two countries, and generates jobs for them, especially in agriculture.

Clinton also stressed that the principle of women's empowerment is at the heart of U.S. foreign policy.

Thaksin not in Cambodia: official

via CAAI News Media

Mar 13 02:20

PHNOM PENH, March 13 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Cambodia denied Saturday that fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has traveled to the country.
Thaksin, who was appointed as economic adviser to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen last year, has orchestrated a huge rally in Bangkok for Sunday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told Kyodo News that a Thai media report that Thaksin has traveled to Cambodia is "not true" and the Cambodian government has no information on whether Thaksin plans to visit Cambodia in the near future.

On Friday, the Thai newspaper The Nation quoted Chavanon Indharakomansut, secretary of Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, as saying that Thaksin traveled to Cambodia's northern province of Siem Reap by his private jet.

Thaksin has visited Cambodia three times since his appointment as economic adviser to Hun Sen and the Cambodian government.

Palm Village: Natural and Khmer Style Guest Houses in Siem Reap, Cambodia
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Located in Kok Chork, Commune, Siem Reap Province, “Phoum Thnot” which is known as “Palm Village” in English- natural Khmer style Guest Houses built of palm tree- are strange and unique houses that possibly serve those who love the ...

PR Log (Press Release) – Mar 12, 2010 – Located in Kok Chork, Commune, Siem Reap Province, “Phoum Thnot” which is known as “Palm Village” in English- natural Khmer style Guest Houses built of palm tree- are strange and unique houses that possibly serve those who love the natural beauty, quiet and privacy life. This natural resort was established in 2001 and finished in 2003.

The special feature of this resort is that it is a rare and first tourism village that represents and promotes a Khmer style lodging industry and also provides the real Khmer food in Siem Reap, the land of famous heritage site in South East Asia. Its popularity has increased since there are many natural lovers have accessed the site. In harmony with attraction diversification of Siem Reap’s master plan that is one of strategic solutions, the Palm Village itself helps diversify attraction in Siem Reap as well as Cambodia.

To experience the real way of life and real travel in Siem Reap and Cambodia, Palm Village can be a good destination to relax and view the community life style. If traveling to Siem Reap Cambodia, DO NOT miss the golden opportunity to visit the heritage site and other attractions include Palm Village that many kinds of experiences and economically contribute to local resident and help enhance living standard and be apart of sustainable tourism development solution in Cambodia.

Govt believes Thaksin is in Cambodia

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By The Nation
Published on March 13, 2010

Government officials and their opponents yesterday released contradictory information on former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's whereabouts, with the former saying he had left Dubai for Cambodia and the latter claiming he was still in the emirate.

Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, first floated news that Thaksin had landed by private jet in Siem Reap in the morning.

The Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh was verifying the information and would report back to the ministry about Thaksin's activities in Cambodia, he said.

Vice Foreign Minister Panich Vikitsreth said he had learnt that following a Thai request, Dubai had asked Thaksin to leave as the United Arab Emirates did not want him to use the country as a launching PAD for attacks against the Thai government.

"He might travel to the country he is familiar with and where he has a close association with its leaders," he said, without naming the destination.

There were no reports from Cambodia on whether Thaksin had arrived in the country.

Acting Government Spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the ex-premier had travelled from one country to another, but there was no clear information on his current whereabouts.

The locations of Thaksin and his family are a matter of particularly close interest for the government at this time. The anti-government red-shirt movement called for a huge protest yesterday, which hundreds of thousands people are expected to join in Bangkok over the weekend.

Former foreign minister Noppadon Pattama, who is now a legal adviser to Thaksin, rejected the government's information about his whereabouts, saying he was still in Dubai and planned to see his daughters somewhere in Europe in the next few days.

"For sure, he would not travel to Cambodia during this period when the red-shirted group is holding the protest," he said.

The authorities in Dubai have not forced Thaksin to leave as Kasit is trying to suggest, he added.

"Location is not a big deal for Thaksin, as he can phone in to support the red-shirt protesters from any corner of the globe," Noppadon said.

Thaksin has not yet reunited with his family, as his ex-wife Pojaman na Pombejra is still in Hong Kong and their daughters Pinthongtha and Paetongtarn are in Germany, according to Noppadon.

Thaksin's youngest sister Yinglak Shinawatra had left Thailand for an undisclosed country to seek a school for her child, he added.

Red-shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan said the movement had no problem with Thaksin's family leaving the country during the protest.

"It's good, as the government will not be able to bother them," he said.

Cambodia Says Rumour On Presence Of Thaksin Is Untrue

via CAAI News Media

March 13, 2010

PHNOM PENH, March 13 (Bernama) -- The Cambodian government said Saturday that the rumors that have spread on the presence of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in the country were "untrue", reports China's Xinhua news agency.

Foreign Ministry's Spokesman Koy Kuong said that as of Saturday, Cambodia has received no information that Thaksin is planning to come to Cambodia.

He said since Friday afternoon, following reports from the Thai press many, inquiries were asked on the presence of Thaksin in Cambodia.

Prak Sokhon, secretary of state of the Council of Ministers and minister attaches to Prime Minister Hun Sen, and who was in charge of facilitations for Thaksin's previous trips to Cambodia, also denied the reports.

Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, floated news through Thai press that Thaksin had landed by private jet in Cambodia's Siem Reap province.

Thaksin had made several trips to Cambodia since he was appointed advisory role to the Cambodian government and personal advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen on economic affairs last October.