Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Migrant Workers Face Deportation in Thailand


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Over a million illegal migrant workers in Thailand are facing deportation. According to new regulations, any migrant worker who failed to apply for an official work permit before the March 2nd deadline could be sent home at any time.

Migrant workers need to submit papers from their home country to become legal migrants and to get a work permit.

The government says the new regulations aim to improve the standard of the working environment for migrants and to provide them with health care.

But critics accuse the process of being too complicated and costly, as the migrants need to return home to get the national certification from their own governments.

Additionally, migrants have to pay $118 to apply for the work permit… but many of them have to pay double to brokers to get it faster and avoid any complications.

[Tuay, Migrant Worker from Burma]:
“I don't have money so I don't have the rights to say anything. If they are going to arrest us, there is nothing I can do.”

Thailand has more than two million migrant workers from Laos, Cambodia and Burma.

Many say the deportation will affect Thailand’s economy as the migrants make up about six percent of the workforce.

The nationality verification process doesn’t apply to those ethnic minorities from Burma who fled their home due to human rights violations.

Many agree with Thailand to formalize migrations but are against the deportations.

[Andy Hall, Human Rights and Development Foundation]:
"So we are against any kind of deportation and what we are fear for all of these, in fact even if the deportation doesn't take place, these migrant workers are now illegal. They are unregistered and we are worried that they gonna become the victims of the systematic exploitation by like the corrupt officials.”

In 2009, police sent back almost 350-thousand workers to their countries but many of them returned to Thailand when they got a chance.

Help the farmers and their brides

via CAAI News Media

The government needs to regulate ‘marriage brokers’ and provide support to the brides they bring to Korea.

April 06, 2010

I have an unmarried friend from my hometown. It is not that he chose to remain a bachelor, but more like he failed to get married. He is quite good at farming and has saved a lot of money through a second job. However, he did not have good luck with marriage.

Women who showed an interest in him at their first meeting suddenly changed their minds upon hearing the word “farming.” This is how he spent his 30s. When he entered his 40s, a trend that saw bachelors from farms getting married to Southeast Asian women began to grow.

Elaborate slogans were hung up here and there in his village. “All fees to be paid later to buy a young maid from...” or “As women are ready to marry, you can marry at any time” or “We guarantee the happiness of bachelor farmers.”

My friend said the posters got him interested. “Why should I care what other people think? I should meet a young girl and live a sweet life...” However, in the end he gave up. He said he did not have the courage to have and raise a mixed race child. I felt sorry for him.

Bachelor farmers like him have a hard time starting a family. Therefore, after much deliberation, some have no other choice but to choose international marriage.

Most of the brides are from Vietnam, China or Cambodia. According to Statistics Korea, 33,000 marriages, about 10 percent of the total 309,759 marriages in Korea last year, were international matches. The number of marriages to foreigners has reduced by 8 percent compared to 2008.

But the number of foreign brides has increased in farming areas: 3.5 out of 10 marriages were between a Korean farmer and a Southeast Asian woman. I sincerely congratulate them and hope they will live as happy families.

However, marriage brokers abuse the humble dreams of bachelor farmers for their own sake. Recently, the Cambodian government prohibited women from its country from marrying Korean males. And “bride shopping,” in which brokers bring unmarried Korean farmers to Cambodia to meet with groups of young local women, became a hot issue.

It is astonishing that a bachelor could be charged more than 10 million won ($8,900) depending on the number of times he met with potential foreign brides.

The tricks of the brokers made the bachelors empty their pockets and broke the hearts of Cambodian women who felt like objects on a shopping trip.

It was such a big international humiliation that the Korean government should be blamed for leaving such illegal hoaxes unchecked.

The situation in Cambodia left naive young Korean farmers disappointed. The bachelors from Bonghwa County, North Gyeongsang, are currently in a state of disappointment. But after all the fuss, Bonghwa created a Marriage Promotion Committee at the end of 2007 to help its bachelor farmers marry Cambodian women.

As a result of that, five couples got married in 2008, 19 in 2009 and five this year. They are setting an example of good international marriages by exchanging information beforehand and making matches cautiously.

This year alone, almost 20 bachelors are dreaming of starting a family. One provincial spokesperson said in frustration, “The Cambodian government’s recent decision has made it difficult for us to go forward.”

The idea of a racially homogenous nation was broken a long time ago. There were 24,745 elementary, middle and high school students from multicultural families around the country in 2009. The number increased by 32 percent in just one year.

They are proud Korean citizens. The schoolboys will grow to be soldiers guarding our country, just like the sailors on the Cheonan naval ship.

However, the government is not interested enough in them. The annual budget to support multicultural families, including financial resources for Korean language education, is just 6 billion won.

It is crucial to provide support and compassion to Southeast Asian women who have come to marry someone in a strange, unfamiliar land, as well as to the families that have welcomed them as their daughters-in-law and brides.

We cannot become a genuinely advanced country if we do not heal the shadows of international marriage. The government should recognize the heartrending situation of bachelor farmers, the foundation of our rural hometowns.

*The writer is an editor of social affairs at the JoongAng Ilbo.
Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Yang Young-yu

Thaksin, Hun Sen 'still on good terms'

via CAAI News Media

Published: 6/04/2010
Newspaper section: News

The close ties between Hun Sen and Thaksin Shinawatra remain unchanged, despite the Cambodian leader's refusal to allow the fugitive former prime minister to interfere in Thailand's political affairs, a close Thaksin aide says.

The prime ministers of the fourMekong countries join hands at the end of the summit in the resort district of HuaHin. Theleaders yesterday pledged closer cooperation to develop theMekong River. From left, Cambodia’sHunSen, Bouasone Bouphavanh of Laos, Thailand’s Abhisit Vejjajiva andNguyen TanDungof Vietnam. NATTHITIAMPRIWAN

Noppadon Pattama, Thaksin's legal adviser, yesterday quoted the ousted former prime minister as saying his long relationship with the Cambodian leader had not been disrupted. Thaksin could enter Cambodia as normal.

Mr Noppadon contacted Thaksin in Dubai after a meeting between Hun Sen and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban on the sidelines of the Mekong summit in Hua Hin on Sunday.

Mr Suthep quoted Hun Sen as saying Cambodia would not allow Thaksin to use the country to launch attacks on the Thai government.

Thailand and Cambodia had put all their problems behind them, according to the deputy premier, who later conveyed the message to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

But Mr Noppadon claimed the statement was intentionally misinterpreted by the government to destroy the credibility of Thaksin.

The fugitive ex-premier spoke with Hun Sen before the Cambodian leader flew to Thailand on Sunday to attend the summit and it showed nothing had changed between them, he said.

Relations between the two countries deteriorated after Hun Sen appointed Thaksin as an economic adviser to him and his government in October. The Cambodian leader rejected a Thai request to extradite Thaksin when he was in Phnom Penh in November. Thailand recalled its ambassador in response and Cambodia retaliated by ordering its ambassador to Bangkok to return home.

The Thai and Cambodian leaders attended the four-nation summit of the Mekong countries yesterday which included Laos and Vietnam. Mr Abhisit and Hun Sen gave no indication of ill feeling between the two countries at the summit.

Mr Abhisit yesterday approved of the positive attitude of the Cambodian leader, expressing confidence it would be a good start to improving relations.

"We have seen a positive sign for diplomatic restoration. We are going to work together to reach that point," he said.

Asked why Hun Sen had reversed his position completely, Mr Abhisit refused to answer directly.

"A leader's responsibility is based on the people's interest. Problems should be cleared by peaceful methods," he said.

Cambodia Needs US$29 Million for Mine Clearance in 2010 – Monday, 5.4.2010


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Posted on 6 April 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 659

“Phnom Penh: According to an announcement from the Cambodian government on 3 April 2010, Cambodia needs US$29 million for mine clearance in 2010.

“The Cambodian Mine Action Center [CMAC] announced that mine clearance will be carried on five more years, and in 2010, US$29 million is needed, including for mine clearance tools and mine clearace techniques.

“According to the announcement, besides the funds of US$29 million for actual mine clearance, US$13.5 million and US$11 million are reserve funds, and US$1.5 million is still being negotiated with donors. But another US$1 million has not been specified.

“The announcement adds that if fundraising is not successful, 20% of the CMAC personnel of 3,000 persons in total will be dismissed from their respective tasks in 2010.

“In 2010, CMAC plans to finish clearing mines at 423 or 424 development sites of 28,000,000 square meters. At least, 7,000,000 square meters are considered as areas where people could easily become victims from unexploded ordnance and mines – these are considered as core areas

“Deum Ampil news center had contacted the CMAC director-general, Mr. Heng Ratana, several times via telephone, but could not reach him.

“It should be remembered that many sites with unexploded ordnance are left from the three decades of civil war. Many landmines have been cleared already since 1998.

“So far, Cambodia has cleared 520 square kilometers from landmines and has found and destroyed 2.7 million explosives, including unexploded ordnance.

“It is estimated that in Cambodia, there are about 670 square kilometers remaining mined which have not yet been cleared.”

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #452, 4-5.4.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 5.4.2010

Former King Sihanouk To Travel to Vietnam

via CAAI News Media

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
05 April 2010

Former king Norodom Sihanouk will travel to Vietnam in June to help strengthen ties between the two countries, a Royal Palace official told VOA Khmer Monday.

“The visit of His Majesty reflects a close relationship and harmony between the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” royal adviser Sisowath Thomico said.

Norodom Sihanouk, who is 87, will spend from four days to a week in Vietnam, at the invitation of the government, his first trip since 1995, nine years before his abdication.

“The Vietnamese president, as well as the Communist Party of Vietnam, wish to recall the gratitude of His Majesty to Vietnam in fighting against the imperialist United States,” Sisowath Thomico said.

The former monarch’s visit comes amid rising criticism by the opposition of what it says is border encroachment from Vietnam.

Yim Sovann, a lawmaker and spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, said the party hoped the former king would raise the border issue with the Vietnamese government.

And Yun Tharo, another opposition lawmaker, said he will try to send to the former king a letter to help him discuss the rights of the minority Khmer in Vietnam.

Sisowatch Thomico said that under the constitution a king or former king has no power in any political discussion.

Experts Say Cooperation Needed on Mekong River Resources

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By Daniel Schearf, VOA
Original report from Hua Hin, Thailand
05 April 2010

Experts meeting to discuss Mekong River resources have urged countries along the Southeast Asian river to improve cooperation in developing hydropower. Delegates also urged China to share more information about its dam building on the Mekong.

After two days of discussions, some 200 experts on water, environmental protection, and finance concluded there is not enough cooperation on developing the Mekong River's resources.

They urged Mekong countries to find a balanced approach to harness the river's economic benefits such as hydropower without causing too much social and environmental damage.

Ian Matthews is with the ANZ Bank in Singapore. He says international standards for environmental protection are not being met on Mekong dam projects when international banks are not involved.

"As a country, as a government, there's a clear desire to have hydropower finance because it is an increasingly valuable resource in places like Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. If the international bank is not going to finance it, and they're not going to apply World Bank standards, IFC standards, to these projects, what you get are banks coming in who have much lower standards. Now, that will lead to much greater degradation of the environment, it will lead to the exclusion of other stakeholders."

China is the only country with hydropower dams on the Mekong and along with Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand is also planning to build more.

Until recently China provided very little information from its dams to its downstream neighbors.

And when the river flooded in 2008 and this year dropped to a 50-year low, many along the Mekong blamed China.

However, the Mekong River Commission, the organization coordinating cooperation on the river, says drought was the real culprit.

But the MRC says dams on the Mekong are likely to have adverse effects on fish migration and sediment flows.

Pham Thi Thanh Hang (pam tih tang hang) is coordinator of the MRC's Basin Development Program. She noted China was giving more data on its dams but said even more was needed.

"We have been benefiting from the sharing of informations, from the sharing of the borders used, with our Chinese colleagues, and comparing the model results. But, we will also benefit if further, extensive information will be shared. For example, on the operations of the dams. So that the countries down here can really plan and work according to a good understanding of what are the opportunities and risks."

MRC member countries are Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Their Prime Ministers are to meet Monday to discuss for the first time efforts to improve transparency and cooperation on the river.

They will be joined by dialogue partners from upstream countries Burma and China.

China Pressed for More Information on Mekong Dams

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By Daniel Schearf, VOA
Original report from Hua Hin, Thailand
05 April 2010

Prime Ministers from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam arrived in Hua Hin, Thailand for the first summit concerning the Mekong River.

The one-day summit is set to begin as the Mekong and its tributaries suffer from a severe drought that dropped the rivers to a 50-year low.

Activists and villagers living along the Mekong cast suspicion on China's hydropower dams upstream, the only dams on the river. China denies the dams have contributed to the drought and that has been supported by analysis from the Mekong River Commission, the organizer of the summit.

But delegates to the Mekong summit say China needs to share more data on how it operates its dams.

Isra Sunthornvut is an official in the Thai Prime Minister's office.

"I think there is growing speculation. That is all. Suspicion, I would suppose, that there is a direct relationship. We do not know the facts. But, we would like to know the facts."

Officials from the Mekong River countries held bilateral discussions Sunday, including with officials from Burma and China.

Little information was released from the meetings.

Jeremy Bird is head of the Mekong River Commission, which helps facilitate cooperation among river countries. He says all the attention is on China and getting more information on how it operates its upstream dams.

"We have been talking for some time and communicating about increasing data. So, this is not new. But I think the drought situation has provided a new focus and a new intensity on that."

China agreed last month to provide more information on water flows for two of four dams it has on the Mekong.

But China has also been filling the reservoir of a massive hydropower dam in the wet season so it can be released for continued power generation in the dry season.

Bird says China needs to provide information on that dam as well to prepare people living downstream for when it releases more water in the dry season.

"Although that is generally beneficial in terms of alleviating the sorts of problems we are seeing now, it also has some concerns in terms of people who are relying upon river banks for gardens, for agriculture, in the dry season. For people who are used to fishing in particular areas."

Bird says they would also like to have a procedure for emergency situations when China has to change its dam operations.

He says they would like China to notify the Mekong River Commission in advance when water flows, sediment, and water quality will be affected, so they can quickly warn people downstream.

Mekong Leaders Agree to Improve Cooperation on River, China Provides Information

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By Daniel Schearf, VOA
Original report from Hua Hin, Thailand
05 April 2010

Leaders of Mekong River nations meeting in Thailand have agreed to improve cooperation on using river resources. The agreement comes after a severe drought dropped the Southeast Asian river's levels to a 50-year low, raising pressure on China to provide regular information on its upstream dams.

Prime ministers from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam Monday agreed that better cooperation is needed to balance the economic benefits from the Mekong River and protect the livelihoods of tens of millions of people.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva stressed the importance of joint responsibility in managing the river's resources.

"And, such high level cooperation could not have come at a better time because now the Mekong River is being threatened by serious problems arising from both the unsustainable use of water and the effects of climate change. What we see today is thus the decrease in the water level and shortage of water supply, pollution, and depletion of natural resources in the Mekong River itself."

A drought this past year in southern China and Southeast Asia dropped the Mekong to a record 50-year low. Activists and farmers blame China's upstream dams, a suspicion fueled by a lack of information from China about the only dams on the Mekong.

At the summit, China provided some data on water flows from its dams for the past few months but made no commitment to provide regular information on their operations or plans for further dam construction.

China's representative to the summit, Vice Foreign Minister Song Tao, defended that degree of cooperation.

He says the Chinese government has reasonably and sustainable, developed and used the Mekong's water resources in an orderly manner and fully accommodated the interests of downstream countries.

The Mekong River Commission, the organizer of the summit, says if China provides regular data on its dam operations people living downstream who depend on the river could better prepare for any changes.

The four commission members - Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam - agreed to promote sustainable hydropower projects on the river.

They also agreed to hold summits on the Mekong every four years.

China and Burma, which also sent a delegation to the summit, have chosen not to join the MRC despite standing invitations for both countries.

River Residents Watch as Mekong Shrinks

via CAAI News Media

By Pich Samnang, VOA Khmer
Original report from Kampong Cham
05 April 2010

Chea Veoung, a 32-year-old farmer in Kampong Cham province, looked desperately at the bank of the Mekong River recently, noting that a severe drop in its level was costing him three times as much in fuel just to irrigate his fields.

“When the level gets so low, [the pump] consumes about 20 liters” of fuel, he said.

Without the pumped water, Chea Veoung’s rice fields, about 400 meters from the river in Stung Trang district, would dry up.

The Mekong has reached record lows in recent weeks, creating transportation issues and water shortages for millions who depend on the river, many Cambodians among them.

Cambodians like Ly Ysa, a fisherman in norther Kroch Chhmar district, who has seen his nets coming up emptier.

“The river becomes lower and lower, so the fish cannot come up here,” he said with a sigh. “When the water level is deep, I can catch a good number, but this year I hardly get enough to make my own fish paste.”

Villagers have surely noticed the lower levels, but they don’t agree on how it has happened. Many blamed deforestation, or changes in nature. But environmentalists say dams on the upper Mekong, especially in China, are the cause.

“Dam construction upstream in the Mekong River is a major contributor to the low water level,” Chhit Sam Ath, executive director for the NGO Forum, a consortium of groups, told VOA Khmer. “It affects the flow of the river and marine life, and also fish migration.”

About 10 dams are under construction on the river, with a few already operational in China, which is not a member of the Mekong River Commission.

Eleven other dam projects are planned on the Mekong in downstream countries Cambodia, Laos Thailand and Vietnam, all of which are members of the commission, which meets this week in Thailand.

More than 20 million people living along the Mekong River are reportedly facing water shortages this dry season. Some Mekong countries have appealed to citizens to save water as the drought continues.

Cambodia has made no such appeal, but residents along the river are already concerned.

“In the future, I can say that there may be no more water for use, as more and more sand grows in the river,” Nguon Sry, a farmer in Kroch Chhmar, said recently. “If the river gets so much lower and lower every year, there will be no water, I can say that.”

Leaders of the Mekong nations are meeting in Hua Hin, Thailand, this week to find ways to better manage the river and reduce conflicts between upstream and downstream countries over water.

China and Burma, both non-members of the MRC, will be dialogue partners during the meeting.

Pich Dun, secretary general of the National Mekong River Committee, said by phone Wednesday the MRC governments will urge better management of the river.

“We will ask China to give us information on the closing and opening of its dam water gates, so we can predict the possible effects,” he said. “That it makes it easy for us to plan Mekong development downstream.”

Cambodia will also ask Laos to table a dam project on the border until each country can study its impacts.

Tek Vannara, a researcher for the Culture and Environment Preservation Association, said all Mekong nations should make a single master plan for equal distribution of river resources to ensure the sustainability a river that is vital to the entire region.

Cambodia cracks down on the sex industry

Cambodian sex worker Soeum Rotha is active in Women's Network for Change

via CAAI News Media

Human Rights

Cambodia's authorities have started closing brothels and karaoke parlors in what they say is a move to combat human trafficking in the sex industry. However, NGOs that help sex workers are skeptical about the campaign.

Prostitution is famously the world's oldest profession. In Cambodia, the government recently decided to target the sex industry in a move it thinks will combat the trafficking of women.

60 brothels, karaoke bars and massage parlors have been raided in Phnom Penh and across the country in the past month alone.

Some 300 sex workers are thought to have lost their jobs since the crackdown began in early March.

Sex workers are bearing the brunt of the government's campaign

Limiting access to sexual health services

Organizations that help sex workers worry it is driving them away from established venues, and limiting their access to sexual health services.

Tony Lisle, the country head of UNAIDS, the United Nations agency tasked with the prevention of HIV and AIDS, says the crackdown is the latest in a series of similar moves by the authorities in recent years, which do not have very positive effects.

"From the perspective of UNAIDS, the crackdowns create significant difficulties for organizations working in HIV prevention to reach those who are most at risk from HIV infection effectively, particularly sex workers and women working in the entertainment industry."

Important to separate prostitution and trafficking

Moreover, although the authorities say this drive is part of an anti-trafficking campaign, so far no traffickers have been arrested – only sex workers.

Lisle says it is important to separate the issues of prostitution and human trafficking.

A survey last year found that no more than 7 percent of sex workers had been trafficked into the trade. "However, they are often the victims of the crackdown," says Lisle.

One in three men are thought to pay for sex in Cambodia

Sex workers are losing out

Ly Pisey is a technical assistant at the Women’s Network for Unity, a collective that advocates rights and sexual health for sex workers that holds meetings for sex workers so that they can pass on information on sexual health and rights. She says that "the situation is very difficult" right now and it is hard to access sex workers.

"We are like thieves. If we want to send out a message on safe sex, we have to call some of the sex workers whom we know and who trust us to come to our drop-in centre. Sometimes we meet one and ask them to share the information and tell them to continue to have hope," she explains.

It seems highly unlikely that the government’s move will fulfill its stated goal of eliminating prostitution – not least since one in three Cambodian men are thought to pay for sex.

However, the wave of arrests is certainly driving sex workers underground and away from the assistance they and their clients need. It seems very likely that if the crackdown continues it will result in a higher rate of sexually-transmitted diseases.

Author: Robert Carmichael
Editor: Anne Thomas

Thailand protesters reject call to end demonstrations

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Monday 5th April, 2010

Anti-government protesters Monday rejected Thai authorities' demands to end their demonstration at a key shopping and tourism district in the heart of Bangkok.

The protesters, known as the red shirts for their favoured hue of clothing, tore up copies of an order to disperse, delivered by officers of the government's Peacekeeping Operations Command.

The red shirts were gathered at the city's Ratchaprasong intersection, home to some of the city's most luxurious shopping malls and hotels.

Their rally, although peaceful, has disrupted hundreds of businesses, snarled traffic and caused millions of dollars in lost revenues.

The demonstrators, including many rural poor bused in from the north-east of the country, have been camped on the streets and sidewalks in the ritzy shopping area since Saturday to try to pressure the government to step down and call fresh elections.

Most of the protesters profess loyalty to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006. He jumped bail to go into self-imposed exile after he was convicted of corruption in 2008.

Government leaders filed for a court injunction to end the demonstration, but leaders of the pro-Thaksin United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), which is leading the demonstrations, filed a counter-suit against the government, leading to a legal stalemate.

Chatuporn Phompan - a core leader of the UDD - said Monday that the demonstrators would reject any court order, just as they rejected the order from the Peacekeeping Operations Command.

Speaking to a cheering crowd from a makeshift stage draped with red flags, Chatuporn reminded his audience that another court injunction was issued in 2008 to evict anti-Thaksin demonstrators from Government House.

That order was defied by those yellow-shirted protesters and any new court order would be similarly rejected, Chatuporn said. He called on more demonstrators to come to Bangkok from the provinces to join the protest.

Protest leaders insisted they would remain at the Ratchaprasong intersection and at another protest site at the Phan Fa Bridge in the old area of Bangkok.

They sent a convoy of pickups and motorcycles to the headquarters of the Election Commission in Chang Wattana on Bangkok's northern outskirts to pressure the commission to prosecute leaders of the Democrat Party, which leads the current government, for campaign law violations.

UDD co-leader Weng Tojirakarn complained that the Election Commission was dragging its feet in prosecuting the Democrat leaders for offences that could bring about the party's dissolution.

After rallying more than 10,000 supporters for several hours at the commission headquarters, UDD leaders claimed a victory, saying the commission had agreed to speed up its investigation of the Democrats and submit its case to the Constitutional Court by April 20.

The UDD leaders said they would return to the commission headquarters on that day to make sure the commissioners kept their word.

UDD Secretary General Nattawut Saikuer claimed the government was planning to mount an attack on the party's People's Channel satellite TV station in northern Bangkok and called on supporters to protect it.

'We found out from a reliable source that the authorities will close our station and then they'll crack down on the demonstration,' he said in a speech to the crowd at Ratchaprasong.

'We want to send our message to our supporters throughout the country that if you can't receive the station you should come to Bangkok and join the demonstrations. Those who can't come here should go to their local provincial halls.'

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has repeatedly urged the protesters and the police to remain calm and non-violent. He has come under criticism from business leaders and fellow Democrats for being too soft on the demonstrators.

Leaders of the anti-Thaksin camp have threatened to mobilise to oppose the red shirts, raising fears of violent clashes.

Thaksin has frequently addressed the anti-government rallies via video link from exile. He is also reported to have provided millions of dollars to finance the demonstrations, including cash hand-outs to protesters.

Hun Sen won't let Thaksin visit while reds protest

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Mon, Apr 05, 2010
The Nation/Asia News Network

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had vowed not to allow former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to visit Cambodia during the red shirt protest, Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said on April 4.

Hun Sen, whose country downgraded relations with Thailand since the appointment of Thaksin as his economic adviser in October last year, is in Thailand for the mekong River Commission summit in Hua Hin.

Suthep made a courtesy call on Hun Sen on the sidelines of the summit yesterday, to wish him a happy birthday and discuss bilateral relations.

Relations between Hun Sen and Thaksin were personal, he said later, and the Cambodian premier would not allow them to jeopardise mutual interests of the two countries.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen told me to let bygones be bygones and move forward to the future to restore relations of the two countries," Suthep told reporters.

"Our countries are neighbors which cannot move away from each other. The border will be no problem and relations of people along the border will improve," he said.

Hun Sen's latest message was contrary to his previous stance, which was strongly opposed the current government under Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Diplomatic relations between Thailand and Cambodia have been downgraded as both sides recalled their respective ambassadors after the Cambodian PM appointed the fugitive former Thai PM.

The appointment of Thaksin created a bilateral crisis for the the two countries. But relations had already soured due to the border conflict over land near the historic Hindu temple at Preah Vihear.

Thaksin visited Cambodia twice since Hun Sen made him an economic adviser. The Thai government responded by reviewing cooperation projects, including maritime deals and financial assistance for a road upgrade after Phnom Penh rejected a Thai request to extradite Thaksin.

Thaksin's visit to Cambodia had political implications for Thailand due to his proximity to the red shirt group and possible moves to try to oust Abhisit's administration.

Suthep said that Hun Sen understood the implications of Thaksin visiting his country and would not allow him in while the red shirts protest, as some Thais may "misunderstand" that Hun Sen was letting Thaksin use Cambodia as a base for moves against the Thai government.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen told me that Cambodian constitution also bars anybody from using the country as a political base against other countries," Suthep said.

Asked if Prime Minister Hun Sen was sincere, given the verbal attack he launched against the Thai government recently, Suthep said the mood of the Cambodian leader had changed and he now he insisted that Thaksin was a normal economic adviser, with no political agenda in his appointment.

Suthep is one of just a few senior Thai officials among the Abhisit government on good terms with Hun Sen.

The Cambodian PM had no formal bilateral meeting with Abhisit on this two-day stay for the MRC summit but met with Suthep in a private capacity.

"He invited me to have a meal at his residence in Phnom Penh whenever I am free from the red shirt protest at home," Suthep said.

Cambodia approves foreign property ownership

A Cambodian woman pushes a cart near housing in Phnom Penh on April 5, 2010. Cambodia's parliament approved a law allowing foreign ownership of property such as apartments and office buildings, in a measure intended to increase economic growth.

via CAAI News Media


PHNOM PENH, April 5, 2010 (AFP) - Cambodia's parliament on Monday approved a law allowing foreign ownership of property such as apartments and office buildings, in a measure intended to increase economic growth.

The draft law, which will permit foreigners to buy leaseholds on buildings and apartments, but not own the land beneath them, was passed when 85 of 96 members of parliament who attended the Monday meeting voted in favour.

Land management minister Im Chhun Lim told the national assembly the law would boost the kingdom's real estate market and bring in more foreign investment.

The law will take effect after approval from Cambodia's Senate and promulgation from King Norodom Sihamoni, which are both considered formalities.

Under old rules, foreign property investment could only be made through the name of a Cambodian national and many were unwilling to risk losing their assets to potentially unscrupulous local partners.

The cash-strapped country's investment law was amended in 2005 to allow foreign ownership of buildings but the legislation was never implemented and the initiative foundered.

Despite the restrictions, billion-dollar skyscraper projects and sprawling satellite cities promising to radically alter Phnom Penh have bloomed over the past few years.

But many projects have been halted or slowed down as Cambodia was buffeted by the world financial crisis after several years of double-digit growth, fuelled mainly by tourism and garment exports.

Climate Hastened Collapse of Angkor, Capital of Ancient Khmer Empire


via CAAI News Media

Scientist uses tree rings to reconstruct 13th century climate

Art Chimes | Washington, DC
05 April 2010

"We started seeing these big, giant periods of drought that took place around that time. And ... I realized that that was the time of the collapse of Angkor."

For hundreds of years the Khmer empire ruled in what is now Cambodia.

But in the 13th century, the capital city, Angkor, died off, and a new scientific study indicates that climate, specifically decades of drought interspersed with intense monsoons, helped bring down the Khmer capital.

In the ancient world, Angkor was known for its sophisticated water system.

"Angkor was really the dominant civilization in that part of the world without any question," said Brendan Buckley, the Columbia University scientist who led the study.

"It was the center of their universe. And it was called the 'hydraulic city' because it had really remarkably massive arrays of barays, which are these giant water tanks and a series of canals and interconnected waterways that was really unparalleled in the ancient world in that part of the world."

Buckley isn't an archaeologist. He studies tree rings, which record the growth history of trees that can be hundreds of years old, or even older. A new ring is added every year, and thicker rings represent a kind of savings account, when the tree collects more nutrients than it can use. Thin rings show the tree is barely getting along, like during a drought year.

Using samples from around Southeast Asia, Buckley and his colleagues saw this pattern in tree rings from recent years, when he could corroborate the rings with other historical climate information. His newest tree ring samples, from the rare Fokienia hodginsii cypress in southern Vietnam, enabled him to take the climate record back much further.

"We realized we have trees that are more than 1,000 years old. And we started seeing these big, giant periods of drought that took place around that time. And as I started to get more interested in the history of Southeast Asia, I realized that that was the time of the collapse of Angkor."

The research team used what are called core samples from hundreds of trees throughout Southeast Asia. Using a hollow tube, they drill into the tree and extract a 5-mm wide cylinder that shows each ring starting with the most recent, just under the bark.

By comparing rings from different trees and with other historical data, you can often identify particular rings with the exact calendar year that they grew.

"We were able to match up the narrow and wide rings exactly so that we can assign the exact calendar dates to the exact rings of every tree," Buckley explained. "In the tropics, a lot of tree species don't even form rings that we can see. So to be able to get a tree that, first of all, has very clear rings that we're able to visually match to each other and then go through and produce these long records was remarkable."

Man fatally wounded in S. Phila. shooting

Ranny Thon: Shot outside house.

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Philadelphia Daily News

russv@phillynews.com  215-854-5987

Ranny Thon was a peacemaker who was trying to calm an angry man when he was shot and killed early Saturday in South Philadelphia, relatives said yesterday.

The man killed Thon, 24, and wounded three relatives: a 22-year-old man who was shot in the shoulder; a 24-year-old man who was shot in the thigh and back; and a 17-year-old female cousin, who was grazed in the stomach, police said.

Yesterday, the 17-year-old cousin was sitting on the front steps of a house on 8th Street, near Moyamensing Avenue, with relatives and friends. The young woman, who asked that her name not be used, translated for Thon's mother, who came to this country from Cambodia and spoke Khmer, when she appeared briefly at the front door.

"She said to let everyone know, 'I miss him and I love him very much and I feel like I am going crazy because my son died,' " the young woman said.

Thon and his relatives were shot as they stood outside Thon's aunt's house. The girl said she believed the shooter was also Cambodian. She said Thon and his siblings were born in the United States.

No arrests had been made as of last night.

The relatives kept candles burning at a sidewalk memorial that included incense, a bowl of noodles, a cup of beer and a white plastic chair filled with stuffed animals and a picture of Thon.

The 17-year-old cousin said Thon had tried to intervene when a man came by about 2:30 a.m. and began arguing with a couple who were out on the sidewalk with her male relatives.

The man left the block for about 10 minutes and when he returned, "he got mad because the guy he was arguing with had gone," the 17-year-old said.

As Thon tried to calm the man down, the gunman started shooting. Her three male relatives were shot outside and the teenager as she stood just inside the front door. "I just screamed and started crying," the girl said. "I didn't know I was hit until I got inside."