Monday, 31 January 2011

Army edge Black Cats, Police team run riot

National Defence Ministry midfielder Keo Vannak skips over a challenge from a Chhma Khmao player during their last 16 match of the 2011 Samdech Hun Sen Cup at Olympic Stadium on Saturday. The Army team beat the Black Cats 2-1 to advance to the quarterfinals. Photo by: Sreng Meng Srun

via CAAI

Monday, 31 January 2011 15:00 H S Manjunath

Holders Ministry of National Defence booked their place in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Samdech Hun Sen Cup with a laboured 2-1 victory over Metfone C-League demotees Chmma Khmao at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday.

After a barren first half in which MND spurned several prominent chances, Phoung Soksana’s individual brilliance led to the Army’s opener four minutes into the second session.

Thong Udom doubled MND’s lead with a header in the 66th minute, before Ung Tara raised hopes of a fight back by the Black Cats when he lodged his freekick in the back of the net. However, the 76th-minute strike proved to be just a consolation as the reigning champions advanced to the last eight.

Police force out Stung Treng
Later on Saturday, Division A1 champions National Police Commissary were ruthlessly efficient against Military Police of Steung Treng, dealing the provincial side a 3-0 drubbing.

Ly Arifin’s goal, minutes before the interval, came after a string of near misses for the home side. Captain Sophal Odom then led by example with a second half brace to ensure a healthy scoreline.

Police coach Ung Kanyanith hailed former Khemara Keila playmaker Hou Sambo as his man-of-the-match. “Hou Sambo changed the game with his two assists,” said the coach.

Stung Treng coach Hok Sochivoan, meanwhile, was pleased by his team’s performance despite the result.

“I knew the Police are a strong side and boast a lot of experience,” he said. “But my players played well. Only our finishing let us down.”


Fortune flowers for lunar new year

Shrubs in bloom command a higher price. PHOTOS BY ROTH MEAS

Hout Sayeang travels to Phnom Penh each year to sell trees for Chinese New Year.

Shrubs in bloom command a higher price. PHOTOS BY ROTH MEAS

via CAAI

Monday, 31 January 2011 15:00 Roth Meas

AS Chinese New Year approaches, plant sellers are gearing up for a rush as people flock to buy yellow-flowering shrubs called angkea sel.

The blooms are said to predict the year’s fortune ahead, according to flower seller Hout Sayeang, 56, from Char village in Kampong Chhnang province.

Every year since 1994, she has been bringing the trees from her village to sell near the Japanese Friendship Bridge in Phnom Penh.

“Customers like to choose trees which are about to blossom but this year the festival is earlier than usual, so it’s been hard to get them to bloom,” she says.

If the trees blossom during the first three days of the new year, the year will bring good fortune, she claims.

So she and her family have diligently spraying the trees several times a day with water to get them to flower early.

Her trees are brought from Koh Krolor district in Battambang province 10 days before the Chinese New Year. Hout Sayeang says people there cut trees to sell to her.

It takes her two days to transport the trees to Phnom Penh by truck, and she sells them for between US$15 and $20 each.

About 20 tree sellers congregate near the bridge each year. Khatt Khea, 29, a farmer from Prek Khmom village, Kampot district, says that he has come down to the city every Chinese New Year for 17 years to sell his trees, which this year came from Battambang province.

Hun Sen's Development? More poverty (Evidence of what people has said)

The voice of suffering peoples under the silly development of Cambodia government. Did those high ranking authority heard those voices or they are very busy holding too many young girls........ or need money for those young girls and come to kick people out of their land???

Can yesterday's enemy be today's ally?

via CAAI

Published: 31/01/2011

"The enemy of our enemy is our ally." This was said some years back by a wise man. Apparently bearing this thoughtful quote in mind, Chaiwat Sinsuwong, a co-leader of the Thai Patriots Network, approached some jailed red shirt leaders while he was held in custody in a Bangkok prison and asked whether the red shirts would be interested in joining his ultra-nationalist group and the People's Alliance for Democracy, in fighting against the Abhisit government.

Mr Chaiwat, who was freed on bail last Thursday, said the TPN would continue camping out in front of Gate 4 of Government House while the yellow shirt supporters of the PAD were digging in on Ratchadamnoen Avenue. He suggested that the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) should rally its red shirt supporters at Orathai Bridge near the building of the Prime Minister's Office, also at Government House.

The jailed red shirt leaders whom Mr Chaiwat did not identify did not immediately respond to his request and asked to consult with their UDD colleagues first.

Obviously, the red shirt leaders were smart enough not to commit themselves to Mr Chaiwat's request or to reject it outright. For the time being, they and the TPN appear to have a common enemy, that is the Abhisit government, in particular the Democrats - although for completely different reasons.

The TPN has been unsuccessfully pressuring the government to secure the release of their two colleagues, Veera Somkwamkid and his secretary Ratree Pipattanapaibul, who are jailed in Phnom Penh for illegal entry, trespassing on a military area and on spying charges.

However, the main issue of the protest is territorial sovereignty regarding disputed areas with Cambodia which, in essence, is similar to the PAD's position.

Meanwhile, the UDD has been demanding justice for their colleagues killed during the bloody protest in Bangkok last May and for the release of its jailed leaders. It is also considering whether to take the case to the International Court of Justice against the Abhisit government with the help of Robert Amsterdam, a lawyer of deposed former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Because the TPN, PAD and UDD are all at odds with the government, Mr Chaiwat may feel that the red shirts could turn into an ally, even if temporarily, just to fight the government or to get rid of the government. But whether the red shirts will think likewise is still a question mark.

The PAD, in particular, is fiercely opposed to the government; it strongly feels that the government has bowed too much to Cambodia in regard to overlapping areas of the disputed border, especially the 4.6 square kilometre area surrounding the ancient Hindu temple of Preah Vihear or Khao Phra Viharn as it is called in Thailand. The group has demanded that the government unilaterally scrap the 2000 memorandum of understanding on boundary demarcation, withdraw from Unesco's World Heritage Committee and to even use force to evict Cambodian settlers from the disputed areas.

The PAD has been using the Cambodian card to rally public support for its cause for several months, before it staged its first rally in front of Government House last Tuesday. About 5,000 yellow shirt supporters showed up on the first day and the number has gradually dropped over the following days, with the protest leaders expecting more supporters during weekends.

PAD leaders should have realised that many of their supporters have now distanced themselves from the movement because they feel their causes of protest are no longer relevant or justified enough. Or simply because they are fed up of street protests - be it staged by the red shirt or yellow shirt people - as they cause them trouble all the same. Some critics say the Cambodian card being played by the PAD may be just a cover for its real agenda.

The yellow shirt leaders have been very bitter against the government, the Democrats in particular, for not showing them due gratitude for their help in ushering the Democrats into the seat of power after their mass protests which resulted in the overthrow of the Thaksin regime in a military coup in 2006 and the eventual collapse of Thaksin's nominee governments led by Somchai Wongsawat and Samak Sundaravej.

The bitterness against the Democrats can be detected in the speech given to the yellow shirt protesters by Sondhi Limthongkul, PAD co-leader and media tycoon, on Thursday night.

"...This is a problem of Thai society. A younger colleague of mine who showed up at our protest against Thaksin every day now questions us as to why we are protesting against Abhisit and complaining about traffic jams. Does it mean that there were no traffic jams when he joined the protest against Thaksin? On Friday I will talk about why I have a bonding with you people because we are of the same class, we are down to earth unlike the 'hi-so' like Kasit [Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya] or Abhisit [Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva] who did not have the courage to come out to fight Thaksin like us. They [Abhisit and Kasit] let us take the lead. They hated Thaksin because Thaksin destroyed their status. They fought but their feet did not touch the ground like us. We risked the bullets and tear gas but they simply rode piggyback upon us..." said Mr Sondhi.

Mr Sondhi's tone sounds as if the PAD has always wanted some "return favours" from the Democrats for the "help" it had given them. As a matter of fact, the Democrats have already returned the favour to PAD by appointing Mr Kasit - a key supporter of the yellow shirts during their protest against Thaksin - as foreign minister. But the foreign minister has fallen out of favour with the PAD and has now been branded an outcast by the yellow shirts.

For the time being the government has rejected all three demands from the PAD. Despite the PAD's threat to camp out for a long-haul protest, it remains to be seen what ammunition the PAD has up its sleeve to deal with the government. But if the number of its protesters keeps dropping and without support from the red shirts, chances are slim that both the PAD and its ally the TPN would be able to force the government to its knees.

Instead, the two political groupings may have to retreat to lick their wounds.

Veera Prateepchaikul is a former editor, Bangkok Post.

Congratulations Cambodia

via CAAI

Published by Suat Tore
Sunday, 30 January 2011 21:52

Congratulations because of your complete hospitality. Congratulations because of your development in tourism in a short period of time. Congratulations because of your perfect ATF organization.

I went to Cambodia last time in 2007 for their AITEX tourism exhibition. Beside its glorious Angkor Wat in Siem Reap city that is also listed by UNESCO, I noticed only some hotels in capital Phnom Penh, lack of road and transportation, almost no dining and touristic attractions.

Cambodia made big progress in the last 4 years. International hotel chains opened properties in these two cities. Transportation grew with new roads and vehicles. Number of touristic facilities increased and Las Vegas style hotels & resorts already opened. This development in tourism also reflected number of tourist arrivals that reached 1,5 million in 2010 with an increase of almost 100%.

For a weeklong event, ATF welcomed 1600 delegates, 442 international buyers, 148 media from 32 countries and 500 exhibitors coming from 10 ASEAN countries in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. They have been hosted by Cambodian tourism professionals and volunteers.

With the increase of tourism professionals in the country, Cambodia will name itself one of the leading tourism destination in the region with its growing incoming tourism and outgoing tourism with its increased income.

PM orders Cambodian flags to be taken down

via CAAI

Phnom Penh labels demand 'provocative'

Published: 31/01/2011

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is insisting that any Cambodian flag flying above disputed areas must be removed, despite Phnom Penh denouncing the call as "insulting and unacceptable".

The Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement criticising Mr Abhisit's demand, saying the call, in parallel with Thai military exercises last week near the border, was provocative.

Mr Abhisit called for the removal of the Cambodian flags yesterday during his weekly radio and television address.

Cambodia is flying its national flag near Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara temple in the disputed 4.6-square-kilometre area near Preah Vihear temple.

Mr Abhisit said the area did not belong to Cambodia and ordered the Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry to protest against Cambodia's announcement that he had violated its sovereignty by ordering the removal of the flag.

The prime minister also reaffirmed yesterday that he would not meet the demands of the People's Alliance for Democracy, which is protesting against the government's handling of the border row.

The PAD is calling on the government to revoke the 2000 memorandum of understanding between Thailand and Cambodia that governs the countries' boundary quarrel, to withdraw from the World Heritage Committee, and to expel Cambodian people from the disputed area.

Mr Abhisit said it was a misunderstanding that the border agreement allowed Cambodia to encroach on Thai territory. He said the memorandum prohibited either country from further intruding on the other's land.

He denied the agreement put Thailand at a disadvantage or meant that Thailand accepted a 1:200,000 border map used by Cambodia. He insisted the memo was drawn up in line with international principles and could help prevent the disagreement escalating into war.

As for the membership of the World Heritage Committee, Mr Abhisit said the past government of Thailand allowed Cambodia to have the Preah Vihear temple listed as a world heritage site, while his government had resisted Cambodia's desire to manage the temple as a world heritage site alone.

Regarding the expulsion of Cambodian people from the disputed area, the prime minister said such a move could trigger retaliations.

The secretary to the foreign minister, Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, said yesterday the Foreign Ministry would issue a letter of protest against Cambodia's statement accusing Mr Abhisit of violating its sovereignty.

"We should help each other avoid conflicts and should not issue any statement that will lead to more conflicts and confusion," he said.

Protest to be lodged over flag

via CAAI

By The Nation
Published on January 31, 2011


Preah Vihear tense after influx of Cambodian troops

The government will flex its muscles for the protesting yellow shirts from the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) to show it will protect land in disputed border areas. It plans to issue a statement of protest against Cambodia.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has instructed the Foreign Ministry to issue a protest, because Phnom Penh has refused to remove its national flag from the disputed area adjacent to the Hindu temple at Preah Vihear, the ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdi said.

"Concerned officials are working on it and we could issue the statement soon," he said. Abhisit said last week that Cambodia had no right to fly its national flag at Wat Keo Sikkha Kiri Svara temple as Thailand also claimed territorial rights to the area.

Thailand managed to convince Cambodia to remove two stone tablets saying the area where Thai troops invaded in 2008 belonged to Cambodia.

However Phnom Penh refused to follow any further demand from Bangkok to remove its national flag there. It says the temple built by Cambodian people in 1998 is clearly situated in Cambodian territory.

"Therefore the national flag of Cambodia is legitimately able to fly over the pagoda," a statement by Cambodia's Foreign Ministry said last week.

The border area adjacent to Preah Vihear has been argued over ever since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in 1962 that the temple was situated in Cambodian territory.

Abhisit has argued that the ICJ ruled only the stone ruins belong to Cambodia while surrounding areas belong to Thailand.

The areas have not been demarcated yet but the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding in 2000 to set up a joint mechanism to try to settle the dispute.

The PAD, which has staged a rally near the Prime Minister Office, wants Abhisit to use force to remove Cambodians from the disputed area and scrap the 2000 MOU on land boundary demarcation. They have pressured the government by vowing to stay until their demands are met.

Cambodia, meanwhile, is reported to have boosted troops in the area, notably near Preah Vihear. Thai news teams have said the border areas are tense while outlets in Phnom Penh have reported that the Cambodian military is ready for war with Thailand.

Abhisit insisted he would settle the border dispute with Cambodia by peaceful means. The 2000 MOU was an effective instrument for settling the border dispute, he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who oversees security matters, said the Thai military was strong enough to protect the country but would not boost forces in the area near the historic temple.

The government would continue to negotiate with Cambodia over the border issue, he said.

"Please do not provoke any news to create tension with our neighbouring country. We have to live with them peacefully," Suthep said when asked about Cambodian troops along the border.

"We don't have any problem with Cambodia and our two governments have no problem," he said.

Asked if the government in Phnom Penh criticised Thailand every day, Suthep said, "don't look only at one side. If you are in Cambodia, you would see a group of Thai people scolding Cambodia every day."

PM renews plea to PAD for talks

via CAAI

Published: 30/01/2011

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday offered to talk to the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) to clear any misunderstanding on the Thai-Cambodian border disputes.

Mr Abhisit said he is ready to send his aides to meet leaders of the yellow-shirts to clear any doubts they have on the ways the government is solving the disputes.

"My government is open-minded. I would like to see the PAD to open their mind too," the premier said in his weekly national televised address.

"Rather than simply accusing each other, we should find ways to compare our information," he said.

"If our information does not match, how can we adjust each other's understanding to find certain common understanding?"

PAD followers, who launched their rally last Tuesday and have occupied part of Ratchadamnoen Road, have set three demands.

They want Mr Abhisit government to scrap the existing memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between Thailand and Cambodia in 2000 as the framework for settling the two countries' disputed border areas.

They also demand that the prime minister oust Cambodians from disputed areas, and pull Thailand out of the World Heritage Convention of Unesco.

Mr Abhisit said that many of the PAD supporters misunderstand that the MOU allowed Cambodians to trespass into the 4.6-square-kilometre disputed area near Preah Vihear temple.

He said the MOU in itself did not set the demarcation line of boundaries of Thailand or Cambodia, as demarcation was an issue for negotiation between the two countries based on other agreements or documents.

"The MOU does not put (Thailand) in disadvantage," the premier emphasised.

He said if the government moved to evict Cambodians from the disputed areas, it could create more troubles along the Thai- Cambodian border.

He also said that Thailand should not pull out as a party to the World Heritage Convention as that would allow Phnom Penh to gain an upper hand in administering the disputed area.

"The government stands firm on solving the issue by protecting Thai people's interest 100 per cent," he said.

"But at the same time, we need not affect peace or good bilateral relationship."

Chinese art performances held in Cambodia to celebrate Chinese New Year

via CAAI

PHNOM PENH, Jan 30, 2011 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- A free concert performed by an art delegation from China's Shanxi University was held here on Sunday evening at the Southeast Asia Television (SEATV) and it was live televised across the country.

It's the first Chinese art performance that live-televised in Cambodia.

The concert, featuring musical and cultural shows by Chinese artists, has also been joined by Cambodian artists, who dressed in Chinese costumes and performed in Chinese traditional dances and songs.

The event was also attended by secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Kao Kimhuon and Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Pan Guangxue as well as Chinese people living in Cambodia and thousands of Cambodian viewers at the SEATV station.

Yu Guodong, director of the university's foreign affairs office, who led the Chinese art delegation consisted of 24 artists, said that the concert was to celebrate the upcoming Chinese New Year.

"Moreover, China wishes to make closer cooperation in cultures with Cambodia and wants Cambodian people to learn more about Chinese traditional arts," he said.

The group arrived in Cambodia on Jan. 25 after their performances in Laos from Jan. 15 to 24.

Preir to Sunday's event, the group had performed twice in Cambodia, on Jan. 26 at Meanchey University in Banteay Meanchey province and on Jan. 29 at Prime Minister Hun Sen's Bodyguard Unit.

President of the Royal Academy of Cambodia Khlot Thyda said " the visiting art delegation was essential to strengthen and expand cultural cooperation between Cambodia and China. Through their art performances, Cambodians would learn more about Chinese richness in culture."

The shows in Cambodia are organized by the China's Confucius Institute.

NEWS FOCUS: Cambodia welcomes aid from Japan and China, some are wary+

via CAAI

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 30 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Cambodia, one of the least developed countries in Southeast Asia, extends a welcoming hand to economic aid from Japan and China but some analysts in the country are wary of the competitive intent of the nation's two largest aid donors.

Officially, the government hails the two countries as champions of Cambodia's rehabilitation and development through their economic aid program.

Japan has provided about $130 million a year to Cambodia since the early 1990s mostly in the form of grant aid, while China channels its assistance largely through loans.

For years, however, some Cambodians and observers have been curious about the drive behind the Japanese and Chinese aid programs, as neither country imposes preconditions, a sharp contrast with economic aid from the United States and other Western powers that is often tied to human rights and democracy in the recipient countries.

Since the early 1990s, the Japanese aid program has focused on infrastructure projects in Cambodia, such as bridges, roads and irrigation networks. Japan has also been the largest donor of international funds to finance the U.N.-backed trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders.

Some Cambodians see Japan's financial assistance to fund the operation of the U.N.-backed tribunal as part of its contribution to help heal Cambodia's trauma from the brutal Khmer Rouge rule in the late 1970s.

Cynics, however, suggest Japan is giving money to finance Khmer Rouge trials as a way to harass China, Japan's major political and economic rival in Asia. Beijing backed the Khmer Rouge regime, which is blamed for the deaths of at least 1.7 million Cambodians during its nearly four years of repressive rule.

A Japanese diplomat in Phnom Penh denies the allegation, saying Japan sees the importance of reconstruction and the rule of law in Cambodia.

"Japan has no hidden agenda behind our assistance, which has been given humanitarian and rule of law purposes," the diplomat said.

Chheang Vannarith, executive director of Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, a Phnom Penh-based research institute, said Japan has been focusing on Southeast Asia in general and Cambodia in particular to maintain its economic role and political influence in this region.

Vannarith added Japan "is interested in balancing China's rise."

The rise of China, which has replaced Japan as the world's second- largest economy, has significantly bolstered its economic and diplomatic reach in Southeast Asia.

Vannarith said China has been conducting an experiment on its aid diplomacy in Cambodia and uses Cambodia as a model for other developing countries in the region and in the world at large.

"So far, China's aid to Cambodia has been very effective in terms of winning the heart of Cambodian leaders," he said.

In the last six years, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen paid 11 visits to China, more trips than any other country, while Chinese leaders made six visits to the country.

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni made five state visits to China between 2005 and 2010.

Hun Sen has no reservation in hailing Cambodia's close diplomatic ties with China.

"Starting from the restoration of Cambodia-China diplomatic relations in 1994, the ties developed to a level of mutual trust and confidence by 2004. We are now in the state of comprehensive cooperation and partnership," he said recently.

The premier was also lavish in expressing Cambodia's gratitude to investments from China, which totaled $5.6 billion from 2008 to June last year.

"I would like to express my sincere thanks to our Chinese friends for their help so that Cambodia could get to the objectives it has planned," he said at a ground-breaking ceremony in December for one of the five Chinese-financed hydropower plants.

The growing economic ties between China and Cambodia have prompted words of caution from Washington.

Speaking to Cambodian students during a visit to Phnom Penh in November, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had this advice to Cambodian leaders: "You look for balance. You don't want to get too dependent on any one country. You want to be able to have partnerships that cut across regional geographic lines."

Troops reinforced at tense border

Photo by: Reuters
Thai Yellow Shirts shout slogans criticising the Thai government for its failure to revoke an agreement with Cambodia aimed at solving a long-running border dispute during a protest near Government House in Bangkok on Saturday.

Sunday, 30 January 2011 21:52 Cheang Sokha and Thet Sambath

Cambodia officials have sent military reinforcements to the border area near Preah Vihear temple in the midst of a public spat with Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva over the removal of Cambodian flags at a nearby pagoda.
On Friday, Abhisit requested that the flags be removed from Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvara, adjacent to the temple, a plea that came amid reports of a Thai plan to hold military exercises close to Preah Vihear.

Srey Doek, commander of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Military Division 3 at the border, said additional personnel, tanks and heavy artillery had been dispatched to the border on Friday in response to the exercises.

“They [Thai troops] are doing maneuvers and we are also doing them – that is why we need to send tanks and other weapons to the border,” Srey Doek said. “Our armed forces are on alert.”

Information minister Khieu Kanharith said today that the situation could erupt “this afternoon or tomorrow” if the Thais threatened Cambodia’s construction of a road leading up to Preah Vihear.

“Our stance is that [Thai troops] should not cross the border without Cambodian agreement,” he said.

Tensions in the area first broke out in 2008 following the inscription of Preah Vihear as a UNESCO World Heritage site for Cambodia.

The confrontation over the flags follows Thai demands that Cambodia remove a stone tablet placed last month at Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvara which read: “Here! is the place where Thai troops invaded Cambodian territory on July 15, 2008, and withdrew at 10:30am on December 1, 2010.”

On Tuesday last week, the sign was removed and replaced with another proclaiming, “Here! Is Cambodia”, a sign that was itself later destroyed at Thailand’s request.

Abhisit’s call for the removal of Cambodian flags from Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvara, however, has been rejected outright.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected Abhisit’s request, saying the pagoda was on Cambodian territory.

The ministry claimed the demand was made “in parallel with Thailand’s military exercises at the border”, which were “clearly provocative and [constitute] a casus belli for future acts of aggression against Cambodia”.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation wishes to emphasise that this statement made by the prime minister of Thailand is unacceptable and that the Kingdom of Cambodia firmly rejects such an insulting demand,” the statement read.

“Cambodia reserves its legitimate rights to [defend] its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

In his weekly television programme today, Abhisit reportedly pledged to work with Cambodia to have the flags near Preah Vihear removed.

“The temple is located on the disputed border area, and if the claim by the Yellow Shirt people is true, the government will coordinate with Cambodian authorities to remove the flag,” Abhisit said in Davos, Switzerland, according to The Bangkok Post.

Tensions between Thailand and Cambodia intensified last month following the arrest of Thai parliamentarian Panich Vikitsreth and six other Thai nationals for trespassing on Cambodian territory.

Panich and four of the other Thais were found guilty but released earlier this month on suspended sentences.

However, two others including Yellow Shirt activist Veera Somkwamkid are being held on espionage charges and are set to be tried on Tuesday.

They have also been charged with illegal entry and unlawfully entering a military base, facing up to 11 and a half years in prison.

Opposition infiltration

via CAAI

Sunday, 30 January 2011 22:22 Meas Sokchea and Sebastian Strangio

Prime Minister Hun Sen has apparently signed off on a strategy to recruit spies in the opposition Sam Rainsy Party in a bid to undercut its support ahead of next year’s commune council elections, according to a leaked document from his cabinet.

In a letter dated December 21 and posted today on the antigovernment news blog KI-Media, Ngor Sovann, one of Hun Sen’s advisers, allegedly recorded that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party had successfully recruited SRP officials as double agents in Kampot and Takeo provinces.

The letter noted that 16 SRP members had been recruited as spies in Kampot, in exchange for 100,000 riels (US$24.60) and a $5 prepaid phone card per month.

“We were successful in our work in a short period, with the collection and building of 16 forces as secret agents in the commune councils,” Ngor Sovann stated.

He noted, however, that since November, CPP activists had postponed their attempts to woo SRP turncoats in Kampot, saying opposition activists “seemed to suspect” the presence of secret agents.

“We will continue our work persuading [the SRP] when there is an appropriate time, and [we] hope to collect and build more secret agents to help the party’s participation in the [2012] Senate election,” he concluded.

The letter noted that the recruits, who are only contacted by phone, are also provided with health expenses and funds for “holding traditional ceremonies”.

Ngor Sovann stated that 10 such agents had also been recruited in Takeo.

He described how he and several defectors in Samrong district had attempted to win over Prak Savon, a customs official and “former leader” of the SRP in the district, but that the attempts to persuade him were currently “in a difficult situation”.

Ngor Sovann’s letter bears what appears to be Hun Sen’s signature, along with a date (December 22) and the annotation, “Discuss with both provinces to encourage this work to be better. Kampot province is splitting strongly, we must urge the persuasion and make the division bigger.”

Appended to the letter are lists containing the names, titles and telephone numbers of the 26 alleged SRP spies.

The contents of the letter echo comments Hun Sen made in a speech on December 29, when he alleged that he had spies embedded within the SRP who were relaying “secret information” about the party’s activities.

“The person [inside the SRP] who is insulting me more than the others is who is leaking more secret information,” he said.

“There are many Hun Sen spies embedded in the opposition party and if the SRP wants to hide its secrets, it must destroy the entire group.”

Changing teams

Ngor Sovann, a former SRP parliamentarian, was one of several high-profile party officials who defected to the CPP in February 2008, and was awarded with a post as an adviser to Hun Sen. Following the CPP’s landslide victory in the national elections in July, he was given the post of secretary of state in the Ministry of Justice.

When contacted today, Ngor Sovann denied that the letter was authentic, accusing the opposition of fabricating it for political gain.

“I understand that this story is a political tactic of the Sam Rainsy Party. I used to live with that party, and I knew a lot about that party’s ways,” he said.

“There is nothing strange about politicians creating an event and especially having the skill to create the event. It is the skill of the Sam Rainsy Party, especially the individual Mr President Sam Rainsy. I used to live with him for 10 years, and I know clearly.”

Nou Chem, a member of the Samrong district council in Takeo province whose name was listed in the letter to the premier, denied CPP officials had ever tried to persuade him to become a double agent.

Nou Chhun, another district councillor in Samrong listed as a spy for the ruling party, also denied he had taken money from the CPP, professing his loyalty to the opposition.

“I am absolutely with the Sam Rainsy Party,” said Nou Chhun, who said he has been an SRP member since 1998.

“If Sam Rainsy is still alive, I will not defect. If I sold this job I would be insulted.”

However, one SRP deputy commune chief in Kampot province, whose name was listed in the letter, admitted that he had been given a monthly stipend of 100,000 riels in order to inform on his party.

“I have defected to the CPP since October through [an official from] the SRP. He appointed me, he invited me and I followed him. They have helped me with 100 thousand riels per month,” said the official, who declined to be named.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said he would not be surprised if the CPP was attempting to sway members of his party with financial incentives.

“Since the SRP was established 15 years ago, the CPP has tried to destroy our party,” he said.

“Some defect to the ruling party because of the money or because of political pressure, but at the end justice will prevail. I think more and more the people understand about democracy. Our popularity is increasing.”

Yim Sovann said the apparent attempt to bribe SRP members showed how much contempt the ruling party had for the principle of democracy.

“If you want society to change to a better way, or if you want society to be clean … we need different ideas and opinions from opposition parties. If you do this, it means you do not want democracy,” he said.

SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said he was unaware of any reports of spies inside the party, but dismissed claims the party had fabricated the document.

“We never have any kind of stupid way of creating such problems. Who wants to tell everyone that someone is spying and creating division among us?” Son Chhay said.

“Maybe it’s somebody we don’t know about.”

Son Soubert, a political analyst and former member of the Constitutional Council, said that if true, the CPP’s apparent attempt to buy off its political opponents amounted to a “travesty of democracy”.

He also said it was a tactic that the party used to great effect during the political unrest of 1997-98, when most of the lawmakers from the royalist Funcinpec party were given money to vote against the party’s president, Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

“To weaken the opposition political parties, or even the partner political parties like Funcinpec, they buy them with money and appointments,” Son Soubert said.

He added that the giving and taking of bribes by politicians does little to help the Cambodian people.

“What does it lead to?” he said of the allegations.

“It doesn’t solve all the problems of Cambodia.”

Unionists balk at no-strike clause

Photo by: Will Baxter
Garment factory workers cheer during a protest outside a factory in Canadia Industrial Park during a strike in Phnom Penh last September.

via CAAI

Sunday, 30 January 2011 20:50 James O’Toole and Mom Kunthear

A pair of prominent labour leaders who were at the centre of mass strikes organised by garment workers in September have declined to sign an agreement pledging not to strike following looming negotiations over worker benefits.

Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, circulated the agreement earlier this month for approval from union and employer representatives involved in negotiations.

Worker and employer representatives are set to negotiate in February on benefits including attendance and seniority bonuses, with the government having ordered them to finalise any agreement by the end of that month.

Failing such an agreement, talks would move to the Labour Advisory Committee, a regulatory body for the sector that also includes government officials.

The document authored by Loo has been signed by four employer representatives and five of the seven union leaders who serve on the LAC.

It calls for all parties to “abide by the LAC decision in case there is a disagreement in the bilateral negotiation” on benefit negotiations, and to “agree to negotiate in … good faith”.

Declining to sign were Morm Nhim of the Cambodian National Labour Confederation and Ath Thorn, head of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union.

Loo said today that the September strikes, in which thousands of garment workers took to the streets to protest against an LAC-approved rise in the minimum wage that they called inadequate, had prompted him to draft the agreement.

“It does not say that you can’t object. It does imply that you cannot stage an illegal strike in objection of the LAC decision,” Loo said.

“As members of the committee, isn’t it assumed that you’re bound by the decisions of the committee?”

Ath Thorn claimed the agreement would “limit us before the negotiation even starts”, though he declined to discuss the prospect of further strikes.

“It is my right to decide whether to sign it or not,” he said.

“I don’t want to say what I will do if we don’t get a good result from the negotiations because I don’t want the employers to think I am issuing a warning, so I will just wait and see the result.”

David Welsh, country director for the American Centre for International Labour Solidarity, said the proposed agreement was “positive and necessary”, particularly since Cambodia does not have a well-functioning Labour Court to handle such issues.

“Our approach is that the government actually formalise LAC decisions so that they become binding,” Welsh said, noting that the body has “increasing credibility” among workers.

The proposed agreement, he added, “is ideal if they follow through with it”.

Bank to block ATM arbitrage

Photo by: Wesley Monts
ANZ Royal Bank ATMs have been targeted by savvy Vietnamese cardholders in Phnom Penh.

via CAAI

Sunday, 30 January 2011 17:51 James O'Toole

Vietnam’s Techcombank is introducing new fees to close off an arbitrage opportunity that has prompted Vietnamese residents to withdraw millions of dollars in cash from Cambodian ATMs in order to benefit from the gap between the official and unofficial exchange rates in their country.

The Vietnamese government has set the country’s exchange rate at roughly 19,500 dong to the US dollar, though the black market rate – also used legally by money changers in Cambodia – is about 21,000 dong to the dollar.

Bankers in the Kingdom say that since last month, Techcombank cardholders have flocked across the border to clean out Cambodian ATMs.

The withdrawals they make come from their home accounts, denominated in dong, and the dollars they receive are converted at the official exchange rate.

The Vietnamese visitors can then change these dollars for dong with Cambodian money changers or black market traders in Vietnam, earning the difference between the rates.

While most Vietnamese banks charge international transaction fees to make up for the difference between the official and unofficial exchange rates, Techcombank’s fees are unusually low, creating a money-making opportunity for savvy cardholders.

All this is about to change, however. Dich Vu Khach Hang, a Techcombank customer service representative, said in an email on Friday that the bank was wise to the scheme and was taking steps to prevent it.

“We have known via [a] number of sources about the Techcombank Visa Debit cardholders [withdrawing] cash at ATMs in large numbers in Cambodia to take profit from the exchange rate differences,” Dich said.

“In order to prevent this, we also are preparing to issue a new fee policy [in] which we will raise a special fee apply[ing] for transactions of withdraw[ing] cash and foreign currency.”

Stephen Higgins, the CEO of ANZ Royal Bank, said Techcombank cardholders have withdrawn at least US$20 million in cash from Cambodian ATMs this month.

Although transaction fees eat into their profits, Higgins estimated that the cardholders stand to earn roughly $20,000 for every $1 million withdrawn.

Techcombank, he added, has likely lost about $1.5 million from the scheme.

While Cambodian banks are not losing any money in the process, the transactions have created a nuisance for regular customers who are increasingly likely to find their ATMs out of service.

ACLEDA Bank and ANZ have blocked Techcombank cardholders from using their machines, and Higgins said the National Bank of Cambodia sent out a circular on Friday warning about the scheme.

KRT suspects set to appear

via CAAI

Sunday, 30 January 2011 20:30 James O'Toole

Former Khmer Rouge Brother No 2 Nuon Chea and head of state Khieu Samphan are set to appear before Cambodia’s war crimes tribunal tomorrow, the first time defendants in the court’s second case have appeared alongside one another in a public hearing.

The pair are appealing their provisional detention, alleging that the court has not met the conditions required to continue holding them in custody ahead of their trial.

Former KR social action minister Ieng Thirith, another Case 002 defendant, has also appealed against her continued detention, though she has waived the right to appear at today’s hearing.

On Friday, judges at the court rejected a motion by lawyers for former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary to have Trial Chamber president Nil Nonn removed based on statements he allegedly made to a filmmaker in 2002 discussing his acceptance of bribes at the Battambang provincial court.

The judges ruled that because no misdeeds were alleged to have been committed by Nil Nonn at the tribunal, there was no scope for his removal by court officials.

Determinations on “individual fitness to serve as a judge” are to be handled, by law, by Cambodian authorities, the judges added.

New funding from Japan

Also on Friday, the tribunal announced that the Japanese government had pledged US$11.7 million to fund court operations in 2011.

Some $8.8 million will go towards the hybrid tribunal’s international side, while $2.9 million will go to the national side.

Following the donation, the international side is still short approximately $20 million for 2011 under the approved budget, while the Cambodian side is short about $6 million.

Last week court staff met with donor representatives in New York to brief them on the tribunal’s revised budget for this year, United Nations court spokesman Lars Olsen said.

He said he could not provide exact figures for how much the budget has been reduced.

The latest donation from the Japanese will cover “about 25 percent” of the tribunal’s 2011 operating costs, the court said in a statement.

Japan has been the court’s single largest donor to date, contributing about $67 million, or nearly half of all donor funding.


Flights to Angkor set to rise

via CAAI

Sunday, 30 January 2011 19:14 Soeun Say and Jeremy Mullins

Cambodia Angkor Air is set to schedule flights from Siem Reap to Bangkok this year, bringing competition to a route presently flown by only one carrier – Bangkok Airways.

After acquiring two new Airbus aircraft, which are set to arrive in the middle of this year, Cambodia Angkor Air will use the planes to service the Thai capital along with two other destinations, according to Say Sokhan, State Secretariat of Civil Aviation adviser to the Council of Ministers.

“According to the plan we will fly three new routes this year – Siem Reap to Bangkok, Siem Reap to Seoul and Siem Reap to Singapore,” he said.

Prices for the new routes have not yet been set, according to Say Sokhan, but CAA will compete directly with Bangkok Airways on its Thai route.

CAA is said to be 51 percent government owned, with 49 percent held by Vietnam Airlines.

“This is the free market,” said Say Sokhan. “Competition must have reasonable prices and service quality. So if someone does it better, they will choose [that airline].”

Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said he welcomed the new flights, adding that competition would likely lower fares on the Siem Reap to Bangkok route.

Through the private sector working groups “we have been asking [Bangkok Airways] to consider the airfare between Siem Reap and Bangkok, but have not been so successful”, he said. “Competition will be better than negotiations.”

Although Bangkok Airways officials did not return request for comment last week, fares posted on its website for Siem Reap to Bangkok are often higher than its Phnom Penh to Bangkok flights.

Today, a one-way direct flight with the airline from Siem Reap to Bangkok was advertised on its website at US$160 for February 9, compared with $114 for a similar ticket from Phnom Penh to Bangkok – a route which several airlines, including AirAsia and Thai Airways, fly.

Bangkok Airways is the only airline flying regularly scheduled passenger flights between Siem Reap and Bangkok, according to the Cambodia International Airports website.

The latest direct flights join an increasing number of regional links.

Cambodia and Myanmar officials have signed a deal to begin direct flights between the two nations in February.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

The US agents tracking down sex tourists in Cambodia

 via CAAI

By David Henshaw

Producer, The Paedophile Hunters

US agents rely on locals to provide information about suspect Americans

As part of an initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas, special US agents operating in South East Asia have brought more than 80 alleged child sex tourists back to America to face justice.

Sihanoukville looks like paradise, or at least a decent, low-rent version. Golden beaches, swaying palm trees, cheap alcohol and shimmering sea.

Retired American pharmacist Ronald Adams had come here for the good life - setting up a beachside cafe. But one morning last February Adams' personal vision of paradise was shattered, when officers from the Cambodian National Police raided his apartment.

They found a collection of sex aids, child pornography on DVDs and a variety of illegal drugs. Adams was accused of drugging and raping a 12-year-old girl.

Under the radar

For Westerners arrested on child sex charges in South East Asia, things do not always turn out too badly. Gary Glitter got a two-and-a-half-year sentence in Vietnam for obscene acts with girls aged 10 and 12.

These are poor countries, where $100 can buy your freedom. But Ronald Adams had more to reckon with than the local police. An agent from America's Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) was part of the group carrying out the raid.

Continue reading the main story
Start Quote
If Americans are coming here to do this against the Cambodians... it's our responsibility to bring that person to justice”
End Quote
Special agent Chris Materelli
If a US citizen is caught abusing children abroad, American agents are now on hand with the specific aim of getting the suspect on a plane to stand trial back in the US.

ICE is part of the Department of Homeland Security, based in Washington, with a severe, Brooks Brothers-suited lawyer, John Morton, as its director.

"Don't think that simply by buying a plane ticket to leave the United States and going to a country with less robust investigative and prosecutorial capacities that you are going to be able to get away with it again," Morton said.

"Perfect example - the three gentlemen we brought back from Cambodia."

The "three gentlemen" were given the moniker Twisted Travellers by ICE in a heavily publicised and deliberately humiliating extradition from Cambodia 18 months ago.

All three had previous convictions for abusing small children in the US. The oldest, 75-year-old former marine Jack Sporich, now faces a sentence of 15 years for sexually abusing a number of young boys.

Cambodia's jails are full of foreign paedophiles, but for most of them a short sentence is all they have to worry about. But even that can be avoided if you have the money to pay off the police and the judge.

Agent Vansak Suos was once a conscripted boy soldier in Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army

America was the first country to be positively pro-active about arresting and returning their child abusers to face justice. It has been joined in the past 12 months by Australia and Canada.

For US special agent Chris Materelli, it is as much about moral responsibility as law enforcement.

"If Americans are coming here to do this against the Cambodians, it's our job to try to help the Cambodians clean it up," he says. "They're our citizens, it's our responsibility to bring that person to justice."

In the seven years since the Protect Act was passed, America has brought back 85 child sex tourists to face justice in the US.

But none of this would work without a ground-breaking change in the way US agents work - not just with local police, but NGOs run by ordinary citizens.

In the tourist hot-spots of Cambodia, Action Pour Les Enfants (Action For Children, APLE) acts as the eyes and the ears of ICE in keeping surveillance on suspect Americans.

Continue reading the main story
Start Quote
That's a common defence - that these kids are older than what they appear to be because they're Asian”
End Quote
Gary Philips

ICE agent
Young men on motorbikes patrol the streets with video cameras supplied by the Americans. It was an APLE undercover team that came across Ronald Adams openly asking for sex with underage girls, "the younger the better".

This kind of co-operation with ordinary locals represents a massive change of attitude, almost unthinkable 30 years ago in the wake of America's bombing of Cambodia.

Cambodians are welcome within the ranks of ICE agents. Vansak Suos, once a conscripted boy soldier in Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army, now occupies an office in the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, with a photo of himself and Bill Clinton on his desk.

Vansak's story is bleak, his brother, two sisters, and grandfather were all killed in the time of Pol Pot. He, himself, barely survived, but having done so was determined to use his life to protect other children.

Big catch

Forty-five-year-old millionaire from Florida, Kent Frank, is probably ICE's biggest catch so far. He is a serial global child sex tourist, who was caught abusing four underage girls in his hotel room in Phnom Penh.

Vansak describes how Frank tried to bribe the local police chief.

"Kent Frank just stood up and put his hand in his pocket. Then, shaking the hand with the boss. And the boss just found $100 in his hand," he says.

Frank admitted to having sex and taking photos of the girls he had been with, saying that he believed they were all over 18.

"That's a common defence, that these kids are older than what they appear to be because they're Asian," says ICE agent Gary Philips. "And if I had a nickel for every time I've heard that, I'd probably be a millionaire."

Frank tried to delete the incriminating photos on his digital camera, but at ICE's state-of-the-art cyber forensics lab back in the US, 1,600 deleted pictures were recovered. Frank is currently serving a 40-year sentence in a federal jail.

But it doesn't always end that way. After seven months on remand in a Cambodian prison, Ronald Adams was released without charge. The court decided that because his alleged victim says she was drugged, her evidence could not be relied on. He has since disappeared.

Vansak shrugs and moves on. He is, he says, proud of what he has done. Every sex offender convicted means that many more children are now safe.

Military confrontation between Cambodia, Thai near temple continues

via CAAI

January 30, 2011

The military confrontation between Cambodian and Thai troops over the border area near Preah Vihear temple continues on Saturday and troops on both sides are still on high alert, said a close military source standby at the area.

"We're still on high alert to defend our territorial integrity, " a senior officer, who asked not to be named, said on Saturday.

Thai side has stepped up their troops on their border side; they attempted to bring their Thai flag to fly at Cambodia's Keo Sikha Kiri Svarak pagoda near Preah Vihear temple, he said.

"We have warned Thai troops in advance already, if they dare to enter Cambodian territory, Cambodia will use self-defense rights to protect our sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said.

Cambodian Ministry of Defense on Friday has dispatched dozens of tanks and fighting vehicles as well as missiles and ammunition to Preah Vihear temple area. He said that those armaments have arrived at Preah Vihear temple on Saturday morning.

The re-tension between Cambodia and Thailand over the border happened on Thursday after Thailand demanded Cambodia to remove a national flag over Wat Keo Sikha Kiri Svarak pagoda near Preah Vihear temple, claiming that the pagoda is on the disputed area, but Cambodian side rejected it.

Meanwhile, Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation issued a declaration on Friday to firmly reject the demand of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to remove the Cambodia's flag at the pagoda near Preah Vihear temple.

The ministry said that according to the map produced by the Franco-Siamese commissions between the period of 1905 and 1908, the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda, built by the people of Cambodia in 1998, is clearly situated in the Cambodian territory. Therefore, the flag of Cambodia is legitimately flying over this pagoda.

The ministry called "the statement made by Thai Prime Minister in parallel with Thailand's military exercise at the border with Cambodia is clearly provocative and constitutes a casus belli for future acts of aggression against Cambodia."

Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008. Just a week after the enlistment, Cambodia and Thailand have had border conflict due to Thai claim of the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the temple, triggering a military build-up along the border, and periodic clashes between Cambodian and Thai soldiers have resulted in the deaths of troops on both sides.

Source: Xinhua

'Yellows' return to Thai street politics

The nationalistic Thai Yellow Shirt movement have helped to claim the scalps of three governments in under five years

The largely working class, rural 'Red Shirts' political movement remains a key force in Thailand

Thai street protest groups, with an eye on elections looming before February 2012, are set to become more prominent

via CAAI

By Amelie Bottollier-Depois (AFP)
BANGKOK — With neatly spaced tents, massages, free vegetarian meals and a heavy dose of nationalist rhetoric, Thailand's powerful royalist "Yellow Shirts" are back on the streets of Bangkok.

More than a thousand people have camped out around the government's compound since Tuesday, demonstrating against its handling of a border dispute with neighbouring Cambodia.

Despite relatively small numbers compared to their arch enemies -- the anti-government "Red Shirts" whose most recent rally attracted nearly 30,000 people -- the group has managed to choke off streets around Government House.

Yellow Shirts are a force to be reckoned with in Thailand's colour-coded politics and have helped to claim the scalps of three governments in under five years, including that of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

The group, officially the People's Alliance for Democracy, want the government to take a tougher stance on the thorny issue of the Thai-Cambodian border.

Tensions centre on 4.6 square kilometres (1.8 square miles) of land around the ancient Preah Vihear temple, which the World Court ruled in 1962 belonged to Cambodia, although the main entrance lies in Thailand.

"I came here to help my country. We have to fight to protect our land," said protester Chutikarn Rattanasupa, 42, a grocery shop owner from Nakhon si Thammarat in southern Thailand.

The Yellows, who boast support from Bangkok elites and elements in the military, used to be linked to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, but the relationship has soured.

Abhisit came to power in 2008 after Yellow rallies which helped to eject two pro-Thaksin governments. The protests culminated in the seizure of two Bangkok airports, stranding over 300,000 travellers.

Two years earlier the Yellows had flexed their muscles with demonstrations that destabilised Thaksin's own government, paving the way for the military coup that unseated him.

Paul Chambers of Heidelberg University in Germany said Abhisit may be able to keep his "Teflon prime minister" reputation if he does not bend to the Yellows' demands.

But at the same time, "if he does not give in, I think the protests will continue building," he added.

The border issue heated up when seven Thais were arrested in Cambodia in December for illegal entry and trespassing in the disputed zone, including a Yellow activist who remains in jail facing spying charges.

But Pavin Chachavalpongpun, of the Institute of Southeast Asia Studies in Singapore, said the territory dispute with Phnom Penh is just an excuse for the Yellows to "return into the limelight".

"They just want to regain political credibility and the only thing they can do is to attack the current government, whatever the government is," he said.

Thailand's street groups, with an eye on elections looming before February 2012, are likely to become ever more prominent, said Chambers.

And the stakes are high. Last year's April and May protest by the mainly rural and working class Red Shirts left more than 90 people dead in clashes between troops and civilians.

"The shirts -- of all colours -- are getting out and about to make themselves heard loud and clear," he said.

At the Yellows' rally site, there is almost a festival atmosphere.

Facilities provided for the comfort of protesters include toilets, showers and recycling bins, while stalls sell everything from watches to amulets and a caricaturist is on hand to sketch souvenirs.

A sign proclaiming "Free vegetarian food", next to an assortment of dishes and a mountain of cabbage, signals the work of a group of blue-clad radical Buddhists who are busily providing nourishment at the gathering.

But coils of barbed wire between the camp and the locked gates of the government compound are a reminder that the Yellows have been here before.

"I stayed 193 days in 2008 and this time I'm prepared to stay too," said Nittaya Kurakan, 40, the owner of an accountancy firm.