Sunday, 9 January 2011

PM: Govt trying to help 7 Thais

via CAAI

Published: 9/01/2011

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in his “Confidence in Thailand with PM Abhisit” weekly programme on NBT on Sunday morning that the government is trying to seek the release of seven Thais being held in Cambodia.

“It is the government’s duty to do everything to bring the seven Thai back to Thailand without any effect on the country’s sovereignty”, Mr Abhisit said.

The Thais were arrested on charges of illegal entry into Cambodia and encroaching on a restricted military area.

Core leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) were meeting at Baan Phra Arthit to discuss ways to pressure the government to rapidly help free the seven detained Thais, including their colleague Veera Somkwamkid.

Chaiwat Sinsuwong, core leader of the Thai Patriots Network, said on Sunday morning that the yellow shirt people group had sent seven lawyers, led by Garun Saingam, to Phnom Penh to work as legal advisor to Mr Veera and other Thais.

Mr Chaiwat insisted that the yellow-shirts will continue rallying in front of Government House until the seven Thais are freed.

PAD: Thais arrested in Thai territory

via CAAI

Published: 9/01/2011
The People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) on Sunday issued a statement calling on the government to force Cambodia to free seven detained Thais without any condition.

PAD said in its statement that there are evidences showing that the seven Thais were arrested in Thailand’s territory. It condemned individuals who had told reporters that the Thais had entered into Cambodian territory.

The condemned individuals also included Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon and Sakaeo provincial governor Sanit Naksuksri.

PAD condemned the government and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for failing to use their authorities to pressure Cambodia to free seven Thais.

The yellow-shirt people group also condemned Prime Minister Hun Sen, Cambodian government and soldiers for arresting the Thais in Thailand’s territory and brought them into Cambodia court, despite Thailand had helped Cambodian refugees during the civil war in the neighbouring country.

“As the seven Thais had not trespassed Cambodian territory, PAD called on the government and the prime minister of the kingdom of Thailand to protect the country’s dignity by refusing to accept the ruling on the Thais’ case by Cambodia court.

In addition, the government must deliver an official ultimatum to Cambodia and introduce solid measures to pressure the neighbour to free seven Thais without any condition”, the statement said.

Thai PM: Seven captured Thais trespass into Cambodia accidentally

via CAAI

BANGKOK, Jan 9 -- Seven Thai citizens taken into custody by Cambodian soldiers late last month did not intend to intrude into Cambodia, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in his Sunday broadcast, but he affirmed the government is doing everything possible to help the detainees.

He said that his government's actions to bring the seven home will not negatively impact Thailand's sovereignty.

Speaking during his weekly TV and radio address, Mr Abhisit urged Thais throughout the country to give moral support to the seven Thais arrested Dec 29, saying that they had no intention to intrude into Cambodia as they were there only to inspect earlier complaints by Thai villagers that they were unable to cultivate their farmland although they had land title deeds.

“It was found from the full video clip that the captured people intended to inspect land claimed to own by the villagers and to see the No. 46 border marker in Thailand. However, they were arrested before they reached the area,” Mr Abhisit said.

The seven Thais, including MP for Bangkok Panich Vikitsreth from the ruling Democrat Party and Thai Patriots Network leader Veera Somkwamkid, were arrested by Cambodian soldiers as they inspected the border area in Sakeo province.

The court in Phnom Penh finished the first hearings for all seven detainees late Thursday. The detainees face two charges -- one of illegal entry into the Cambodian kingdom, punishable by three to six months of imprisonment and deportation, while the other involved trespass into a Cambodian military area without permission, punishable by a three to six months jail term and Bt7,500-15,000 in fines.

No date has been set for the court ruling.

Mr Abhisit affirmed it is his government's responsibility to assist the detainees to help them return home as soon as possible as they had no intention to commit a mistake.

Regarding government assistance, he said it would neither affect the sovereignty or rights of each country while the government would not sit idly in relation to border problems between the two countries and the problems would be resolved after the situation has eased. (MCOT online news)

Thaksin offers to mediate with Cambodia in row over Thai seven

via CAAI

Published: 9/01/2011
NAKHON RATCHASIMA : Ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has offered to help the seven Thai detainees in Cambodia if called upon, Puea Thai MP for Lop Buri Suchart Lainamngern said.

"He wants the government to handle the issue first.

"But if anyone requires help, he is willing to lend a hand," Mr Suchart said, adding that he returned from visiting Thaksin in Dubai on Thursday.

The former prime minister is happy to mediate if need be, said Mr Suchart.

The seven Thais, including Democrat MP for Bangkok Panich Vikitsreth and coordinator of the Thai Patriots Network Veera Somkwamkid, were arrested by Cambodian soldiers during a border inspection in Sa Kaeo on Dec 29.

The seven have been charged with illegal entry into Cambodia and encroaching on a restricted military area.

Meanwhile, 2nd Army Region chief Thawatchai Samutsakhon said the army has not reinforced troops near Ta Muen Thom sanctuary in Surin's Phanom Dong Rak district despite border tension triggered by the arrests.

He said the situation around Ta Muen Thom ruins is normal and the historic site remains open to visitors from both countries.

Concerns about border tensions have been raised because the Ta Muen Thom ruins also sit on one of the disputed areas between Thailand and Cambodia.

Lt Gen Thawatchai said the arrests of the Thais is not likely to trigger violence and authorities will wait for the outcome of the court case before taking appropriate actions.

The 2nd Army chief yesterday also urged people critical of the government's handling of the border issue to keep an open mind.

Media outlets should treat Cambodia with respect when reporting the issue to avoid causing hard feelings, he said.

The magnificent seven ride in the wrong direction

via CAAI

Published: 9/01/2011 

The Magnificent Seven isn't just a cowboy movie starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, it's also a Thai soap opera. Follow me as I take you into this comical melodrama.

The goal is to rouse nationalistic fervour, have more people flock to the yellow banner and, at the very least, keep the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) movement, and hence the New Politics Party, ''in the game''.

Being in the game means being in the news, and at present, the magnificent (but directionless) seven are making all the headlines - yes, including the one for this article.

On Dec 29, seven Thais were detained for allegedly illegally entering Cambodian soil.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya has said GPS satellite images show the seven venturing 55m into Cambodian territory. The deputy prime minister in charge of national security, Suthep Thaugsuban, said they did indeed cross into Cambodia territory, albeit unintentionally. First Army commander Udomdej Seetabutr said he believes the seven were on Cambodian soil, but just didn't realise it.

An ''oops, my bad'' scenario, if you will.

Sanit Naksuksri, the governor of Sa Kaeo province, said the seven knowingly and intentionally entered Cambodian territory. The governor revealed that Thai border patrol officers warned the seven that they were about to enter Cambodian territory and should turn back. But they ignored the caution and went right in.

According to reports, evidence from a video clip released last week shows they knew where the border lay and crossed it on purpose. In the clip, former vice-minister of foreign affairs and Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth told an associate over the phone that he was crossing the border and that only the prime minister should know.

To date, however, the prime minister has yet to make it clear what he actually knows and what he doesn't know.

There are, of course, those who insist the video clip has been dubiously edited.

The PAD and the Thai Patriot Network (which insists it has no ties with the PAD) claim the seven did not enter Cambodia illegally.

Now that we have set up the plot, let's look at the characters.

Heading the group of seven was Veera Somkwamkid. It must be said that he has insisted he's no longer with the PAD, even if critics believe that he remains one of its leaders. On Sept 19, 2009, Mr Veera led 4,000 yellow shirts to Preah Vihear temple and made a boisterous speech attacking Cambodia and demanding the return of what he called ''Thai territories''.

In August of last year, Mr Veera crossed the border into Chokechai village inside Cambodia. He and two others were arrested by Cambodian authorities. Two days later, the Thai government negotiated their release. Following the August incident, Mr Veera made a pledge and signed an agreement stating he would never illegally enter Cambodia again.

Mr Veera has long been a bombastic voice in demanding the return of what he calls Thai territories from Cambodia. His warlike rhetoric and agitating actions have caused Cambodian authorities to keep an eye on him.

We also have Democrat MP Panich, a little-known politician with a lot of ambitions, whose family is of the upper crust. His autobiography was published in November.

The public didn't really know who he was then. Consequently, the sales of his tome weren't close to those of Twilight or the Harry Potter series. But if you walk into a bookstore today, MP Panich's autobiography gets more love on the display shelf than Twilight's hunky vampire Edward Cullen.

As for the rest of the magnificent (but directionless) seven? They were either PAD supporters or part of an ASTV camera crew. But to surmise that a member of an ASTV camera crew could also be a PAD supporter wouldn't stretch the imagination too far would it? After all, the owner of ASTV is the father of the PAD movement, Sondhi Limthongkul.

The plot twist is this: What is a Democrat MP and member of the government doing entering Cambodia -intentionally or otherwise - with a known ''border crosser''?

According to Mr Panich, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva sent him to check out the disputed border area. This begs the question: Why didn't this member of the government carry out the directive from the prime minister in an official capacity? He could have travelled to the border with Foreign Ministry officials, their trip coordinated and accompanied by local officials from Sa Kaeo province, guarded by the army.

Why did he instead ignore the border patrol's caution and sneak around with a known ''border crosser'' with a political agenda, who has on at least one prior occasion illegally crossed the border and been arrested by Cambodian authorities, causing an international incident?

Members of parliament aren't international super spies, nor should they behave like them - leave that to Daniel Craig.

No one knows how much the prime minister actually knew. No one is sure if Mr Panich knew what he was doing. Did he want to gain fame, but unwittingly got in too deep? Or was he willing to go deep?

The most simple, and popular, explanation seems to be that both were duped by Mr Veera and the PAD - which is nothing new.

If Mr Veera and some yellow shirts were again arrested by Cambodian authorities for trespassing onto their soil, it wouldn't be such a big deal. The Thai Patriot Network and the PAD would huff and puff, but that's like elevator music - annoying at first, but you learn to tune it out. However, having a member of the government, a Democrat MP, in tow - this changes the game. The government of Thailand then becomes directly involved, complicit one might say.

The plot then leads up to Jan 25, when the PAD will organise its big rally - and it has to be big, otherwise it'll be an embarrassment. Keep whipping up that nationalist fervour, and more people will show up.

I have written it before and I'm writing it again, the only card the yellow shirts have left is that of nationalism, the border disputes with Cambodia.

Fighting corruption? Everyone flies that banner; a plain, white and empty banner though it may be. Protecting the royal institution? Everyone also flies that banner. Newin Chidchob and Bhumjaithai are all over that like white on jasmine rice, just look at the billboards around the country.

The border disputes with Cambodia are all that is left for the PAD.

This year, sooner or later, there will be a general election. In past elections, the yellow shirts' New Politics Party has come up emptier than the Constitution Court on the Democrat Party. So they have to keep playing that one card, and it seems enough people continue to be fooled by it.

Patriotism is love, nationalism is rabies. There's a fine line - please don't be fooled.

The fate of the seven Thais is in the hands of the Cambodian court system, and whether the verdict will be in favour of the yellow shirts' long-term plans remains to be seen. This soap opera's climax has yet to come.

CPP Marks 32nd Anniversary Of 7 January Victory Day

Abhisit talks tough over trespass case

via CAAI

Cambodian court ruling `will not bind Thailand'

Published: 8/01/2011

The upcoming Phnom Penh court ruling on the seven Thais held for allegedly trespassing on Cambodian soil will not bind Thailand on the disputed border, says the prime minister.

Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday said the ruling, expected on Monday, will concern only the charges against the seven individuals arrested on charges of illegal entry into Cambodia and encroaching on a restricted military area.

``The ruling cannot be used to support any claim by Cambodia over border demarcation,'' he said.

The prime minister also admitted he gave approval for Panich Vikitsreth, a Democrat MP for Bangkok, to look into the problems of Thais living along the Thai-Cambodian border.

Mr Panich is among the seven detained Thais. The six others include Veera Somkwamkid, coordinator of the Thai Patriots Network, a People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) splinter group; and representatives of the Santi Asoke sect, the PAD's key ally.

Mr Abhisit said a group of Thai citizens had lodged a complaint with the government, saying they could not make use of their land within the disputed border area.

Mr Abhisit said the PAD and Santi Asoke were also concerned about the issue, so Mr Panich volunteered to join them in an inspection of the area.

The PAD and Santi Asoke had been pressuring the government to take a stronger stance toward Phnom Penh over border disputes.

``I don't believe those seven Thais intended to either trespass on or spy in Cambodia,'' said the prime minister.

Mr Abhisit said he wanted the PAD to give a comprehensive statement to the public, particularly regarding the message that the movement has linked the arrests to the 2000 memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Thailand and Cambodia.

Mr Abhisit explained that there are both Cambodians and Thais living in the disputed area, but the MoU prevents all of them from owning land there.

If the government revokes the 2000 MoU, as requested by the PAD, Cambodia would be free to manage its side of the disputed area surrounding the Preah Vihear temple, he said.

Cambodia would also get everything it is asking for at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Bahrain, scheduled for the middle of this year, if Thailand withdraws from the committee, which the PAD has also requested, said Mr Abhisit. ``I don't want to see these things happen.''

``Since the PAD views any people who disagree with them as traitors, it is difficult to see how we [the government and PAD] will reach an understanding.''

Meanwhile, army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha yesterday asked all parties to stop criticising the government over the issue.

He said the criticism could complicate the case, which is now in a Cambodian court in Phnom Penh.

``Don't accuse Thai soldiers of being afraid [of Cambodian soldiers],'' he said.

``We are ready to fire to protect the country's sovereignty if the border line is clear, but since [this] border line is unclear, it must be judged by the law,'' he said.

Gen Prayuth added that people entering the area must seek permission from the authorities.

The demarcation between the 46th, 47th, and 48th border pillar, where the seven Thais were arrested, has not been completed, said the army chief.

Sqn Ldr Prasong Soonsiri, former National Security Council chief and former foreign minister, said the Thai government had been too submissive.

He asked the government to insist that the seven Thais were arrested on Thai territory and not to accept the Cambodian court's verdict if they are found guilty.

``These seven Thais have contributed to society by making the public more aware of border disputes,'' he said.

Russia mounts air, land and sea search for trawler in Far East

Mi-8 helicopter

RIA Novosti. Alexey Danichev

via CAAI


Two boats, a helicopter and 14 land vehicles are searching for a trawler last heard from off the coast of Sakhalin in Russia's Far East, a regional emergencies spokesman said on Saturday.

The Cambodia-flagged Partner, which has a Russian crew, issued a distress signal on Friday when it was near the western coast of Sakhalin. It had been fishing in the Tatar Strait between the island and the Russian mainland.

"A Mi-8 helicopter from the Sakhalin company Aviashelf is conducting aerial reconnaissance in the area where the distress signal was issued. There are two ships combing the area where the distress signal was issued," the Sakhalin Region Emergency Situations Ministry official said.

The search began on Friday but there has been no sign of the vessel. The land searchers, numbering 74 people, are scouring the western coast of Sakhalin for rafts that may have saved the crew. It is thought that there were up to 14 Russian citizens on board the vessel.

"There are no roads to the coast in the search area, so the operations involve an all-terrain tracked vehicle. The ground-search group includes a doctor. They have warm clothes and food for the fishermen, if they are rescued," the emergencies spokesman said.

Russian fisheries officials said on Friday that the trawler was owned by the Belize-registered company SGI. An October 2010 record listed the captain as Sakhalin resident Alexei Maltsev and said there were 11 crew.

Shipping in Russia's Far East has been beset by problems due to bad weather in recent days and weeks, with icebreakers dispatched to the Sea of Okhotsk, north and east of Sakhalin, to rescue several vessels trapped in sea ice up to two meters thick.

VLADIVOSTOK, January 8 (RIA Novosti)

Over 2,000 to Take Part in ASEAN Tourism Forum in Cambodia Next Week

via CAAI

Saturday, 08 January 2011 04:01 DAP-NEWS

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) -- More than 2,000 delegates from ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN) are ready to take part in the upcoming ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF 2011), a government official said Friday.

Plong Thoeun, deputy director of tourism promotion department of Ministry of Tourism said that more than 2,000 delegates have confirmed their attendances to the 30th ATF to be held from Jan. 15 to 21, 2011.

The 30th ATF 2011 will be held at the newly built Diamond Island Convention and Exhibition Center in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia.

He said alongside with the ATF 2011, there will be travel exchange (TRAVEX) which will give the venue for the ASEAN's package tour sellers and potential buyers from the region and the world, and friendship golf tournament for ASEAN Tourism Ministers and senior officials, organized and sponsored by international television network.

Ang Kim Eng, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA) said Friday that some 990 buyers have registered, just more than double from original plan of about 400.

The forum is the second of its kind hosted by Cambodia after the previous one was hosted in 2003.

ASEAN Tourism Forum is a cooperative regional effort to promote the ASEAN region as one tourist destination. This annual event involves all the tourism industry sectors of the 10 member nations of ASEAN: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Trespassing case 'has no bearing' on Cambodia border dispute

via CAAI

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation
Published on January 8, 2011

Convicting the seven Thai nationals for trespassing in Cambodia would not overrule Thailand's right to claim sovereignty over the disputed border area near Sa Kaew's Ban Nong Chan, where the men were caught, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and legal experts said yesterday.

The Cambodian court's ruling on the case would only be binding for individuals who were involved in the case, but would never be a reference point for boundary demarcation, he said.

Seven Thai nationals, including an MP from the ruling Democrat Party, Panich Vikitsreth, and yellow-shirt activist Veera Somkwamkid were arrested by Cambodian officials last week while inspecting the disputed area.

In his testimony, Panich told the Cambodian court that he had crossed the border by accident. Information from the Royal Thai Survey Department and the Foreign Ministry indicates that the group had only gone 55 metres into Cambodian territory.

Veera and other activists insist that this area belongs to Thailand because Thai authorities issued land titles for local residents a long time ago. Veera and his group were arrested at the same site last August.

The area in question has been occupied by Cambodians who fled from civil war at home in the late 1970s and refused to return after the war.

This border location had been demarcated more than a century ago, when Cambodia was a French colony, but the boundary pillars in the area were destroyed or removed. The two countries have not yet reached common ground as to exactly where the boundary pillars were.

Worry is growing in Thailand that Cambodia will take advantage of the case to claim sovereignty over the area.

Legal expert Panas Tassaneeyanond, meanwhile, said the Cambodian court had the authority to rule on each individual's guilt in accordance with Cambodian law but such a ruling had no binding on the boundary line with Thailand.

"Legally speaking, the ruling is specifically bound to each individual in the case," Panas said on a television programme.

Meanwhile, secretary to the foreign minister Chavanond Intarakomalyasut said the case should be kept separate from the boundary issue because the two countries had a joint boundary committee to handle the dispute. The Cambodian court's ruling should have no legal implication on the matter, he said.

The main argument in the case of the seven Thais jailed in Phnom Penh is whether they entered Cambodian territory unintentionally, he said.

Separately, Army chief Prayut Chan-ocha responded to allegations that the military was too weak to deal with Cambodia over the border dispute by saying that the issue should be settled through negotiations and that it would take time.

"With both sides claiming the same location, we cannot say who has lost it to whom, but we do have to say that we need to live together peacefully and with mutual respect," he said.

"The military does not fear anyone. We have the duty to protect our motherland. If it is clear that it is our land, we will not allow any invasion, but while it is still unclear, we will have to talk with our neighbours," he said.

A group of yellow-shirt activists met with officials at the Foreign Ministry yesterday asking the ministry to help them pay a visit to their colleagues in prison.

The court finished the first round of testimony on Thursday and their lawyer will submit a bail request on Monday. The court will then take five days to consider the request.

No bail for 7 Thais jailed in Cambodia

via CAAI

Jan 8, 2011

THAILAND - SEVEN Thai nationals who faced trail in Cambodian court for trespassing were in critical situation on Friday as their prosecution would drag on with no time to submit bail request, resulting in longer stay in Prey Sar prison.

The seven Thais including the ruling Democrat Party's lawmaker Panich Vikitsreth and yellow shirted activist Veera Somkwamkid appeared in the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in blue prisoner dresses.

They testified in the closed door court room one by one, beginning with Panich who told the court that he crossed to the disputed border area by accident.

Panich told the court that he had 'crossed into Cambodian territory unintentionally', his Cambodian attorney Ros Aun told AFP by telephone.

'He said he came (to the border area) because Thai people claimed it is their land. He said he was walking without knowing that he was entering Cambodian territory and was captured by the authorities.'

Veera, who was previously arrested in the same location in August, told reporters briefly as leaving the court that 'they are forcing us to accept the accusation'. -- THE NATION/ANN

No reinforcement of Thai troops along Thai-Cambodian border

via CAAI

NAKHON RATCHASIMA, Jan 8 -- Despite ongoing tension between Thailand and its neighbour Cambodia following the recent arrest of seven Thai nationals, Thai forces on the Surin provincial border have not been reinforced, said Second Army Region commander Lt-Gen Thawatchai Samutsakorn on Saturday.

Gen Thawatchai, responsible for security affairs in Thailand's Northeast, said no violence had been reported at Prasart Ta Muen Thom, and the peoples of both countries still visit the historic ruins.

Ta Muen Thom ruin sits on another of many disputed areas along the border, and lies in Surin province and Cambodia’s northern Uddor Meanchey province.

His remarks were made after seven Thais, including MP for Bangkok Panich Vikitsreth from the ruling Democrat party and Thai Patriots Network leader Veera Somkwamkid, were arrested by Cambodian soldiers as they inspected the border area in Sakeo province on Dec 29.

The court in Phnom Penh finished the first hearings for all seven Thai detainees on Thursday. The seven faced two charges -- one of illegal entry into the Cambodian kingdom, with assigned punishment of three to six months of imprisonment and deportation, while the other involved trespass into a Cambodian military area without permission, punishable by a three to six months jail term and Bt7,500-15,000 in fines.

No date has been set for the court ruling.

Gen Thawatchai said Thailand's present number of troops along the Surin border is sufficient and they are prepared to perform their duty so it is unnecessary to boost their number.

In response to concern that more serious violence might follow the border arrests, Gen Thawatchai said he did not believe there will be more violence. In any case, the final ruling will be made by the Cambodian court and the Thai authorities could not intervene.

He said the Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry may discuss with the Cambodian government to secure their return home after the final verdict is made. (MCOT online news)

Indonesia, Pakistan and Cambodia back Aquino peace stance

via CAAI

By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Asian leaders have thrown their support behind President Aquino's peace engagement with the Moro separatist rebels and communist insurgents.

Aquino earned the backing of leading political leaders of Pakistan and Indonesia, which are largely Muslim countries, and Buddhist Cambodia when they called on him in Malacañang on Friday.

“Carpe Diem! Seize the moment,” was the message of Pakistani Sen. Mushahid Hussain Sayed, a leader of the political opposition in Pakistan, to Mr. Aquino.

At a press conference in Makati on Saturday, Sayed reiterated it. “This is the time and I think that President Aquino has seized the moment and we will ensure that the moment, the initiative, remains in his hand, and we are right behind him to push this forward.”

Sayed, Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia Sok An and former Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla, along with former Speaker Jose de Venecia, met with the President at the Palace to laud him for simultaneously pursuing peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Maoist New People's Army and the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Although there was no formal invitation for Muslim nations to broker the peace process, Sayed said, "We endorsed his initiatives for peace within the Philippines—the discussion with insurgents in Mindanao and of course with the NPA.”

Sayed is a member of the Commission of Eminent Persons of the powerful Organization of Islamic Conference and secretary general of the Pakistani Muslim League.

He is seen as an opposition presidential contender should the Pakistani government call for fresh elections to end the political stalemate there.

He said Pakistan, which he described as a “leading Muslim country,” shared the “strategic convergence with the government and people of the Philippines for the resolution of this issue concerning the Muslims of the Philippines. So we endorse wholeheartedly the peace process initiated by President Aquino.”

The officials held an informal meeting later Friday with former President Fidel Ramos and Vice President Jejomar Binay at the residence of De Venecia in Forbes Park, Makati, following the wedding of De Venecia’s son, Joey, to Karen Batungbacal.

At the meeting, which lasted way past midnight, both Binay and Ramos welcomed the help of the Centrist Asia-Pacific Democrats International (CAPDI) in the Philippine peace process.

Binay is set to write President Aquino to formally invite CAPDI to help, in whatever capacity, in the peace process since there has been no formal invitation from Malacañang to do so.

“Our formal presence has to be the result of an invitation because we cannot intervene unilaterally,” said De Venecia, who wanted CAPDI "to make itself available on request."

CAPDI is a high-level alliance of ruling and opposition political parties in Asia, business leaders, civil society and academe. CAPDI, whose forerunner was the Centrist Democrats International Asia-Pacific, was formally founded in Dec. 2010 in Phnom Penh.

Its leaders are skilled in conflict-resolution and international diplomacy.

Sayed said the Philippine government must also welcome Malaysia and Qatar's help.

“Qatar has clout also as a rising Muslim country with a lot of oil revenues. So you see, there's a lot of back- up from Muslim countries and this back-up would help... the government of the Philippines in pushing this process forward,” said Sayed.

“It will bring the Muslim world and the Philippines closer together, and we welcome this,” he said, adding, in effect, that the President was in the best position with his immense political capital and popularity here and abroad to end the Mindanao conflict and insurgency.

“Dialogue is the essence of democracy. The Philippines has a very dynamic democracy. We always looked up to Cory Aquino… in 1986. In the Third World, the Philippines has been a role model on how a peaceful transformation can take place through the exercise of people power,” he said.

Kalla currently chairs CAPDI, while Sok An and Sayed serve as vice president and secretary general, respectively.

“Kalla successfully negotiated the Aceh conflict in Indonesia,” said De Venecia. Sok An and Hun Sen helped engineer the resolution of armed conflicts in Cambodia.

De Venecia is the founding chair of CAPDI, while both Ramos and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen play the role of chair emeritus.

Leaders in Asia have much respect and admiration for Mr. Aquino due to the legacy of his late mother, People Power icon Corazon Aquino, said Sayed.

"Talking to President Aquino, I found him a good guy, a sincere person and a very straightforward person. I think he means what he says," said Sayed, when asked about his thoughts about the chief executive.

"We feel that this is the 21st century. A lot of these conflicts are holdover from the past. It's time to have a better tomorrow. And that new beginning is essential for not just the Philippines (but) for Asia, the Muslim countries and communities," said Sayed.

In the Makati meeting, Sok An said that the Capdi officials decided to form a peace commission with headquarters in Phnom Penh “to be given an institutional back up and support of leaders who have experiences in mediation, negotiation and in conflict resolution.”

The priority is the peace mission to Nepal to be followed by a dialogue between leaders of India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue, said De Venecia.

Sayed urged Mr. Aquino and the rest of Asia facing internal conflicts to negotiate peace without U.S., British or Western intervention.

"If the 21st is to be an Asian century, the resurgence, rise and rejuvenation of Asia are inexplicably intertwined with the quest for peace, security and stability in those parts of Asia who are prone to violence, conflict and instability. Hence, we link development with peace. This linkage which something which the country will capture,” said Sayed, adding that Asians should learn to make peace on their own.

“This is the Asian century. We should do it on our own," he said.

Cambodian port foresees positive 2011

via CAAI
7th January 2011 

Phnom Penh Autonomous Port

The total amount of goods shipped through the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port in Cambodia increased 44% in 2010, according to a local media source.

Port authorities stated that it plans to improve upon this by a further 20% in 2011.

According to port statistics, 62,256 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) were shipped through the port last year.

Port director Hei Bavy told local media that the port plans to ship approximately 75,000 TEUs of freight in 2011.

The 2010 increase was partly due to eased shipping requirements between Cambodia and Vietnam, he said.

“We received more shipments last year because both governments worked to facilitate access for ships,” stated Bavy.

He added that the ports location near to production and construction sites had worked in its favour.

Cambodia and Vietnam agreed to collaborate more extensively on shipping goods via water in a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by representatives of both countries in late 2009.

Under the terms of the MoU, ships from Cambodia have direct access to Vietnam’s Cai Mep deep water port, while Vietnamese ships can access Phnom Penh Autonomous Port.

Currently, the port receives shipments such as raw materials for the garment sector, construction materials, and fuels.

Adam Currie, Vancouver News Desk, 7th January 2011

A Cambodian adventure

via CAAI

Tradition and modernity fuse at every corner of Cambodia, a country desperate to emerge from its dark days of history.

By Aya Lowe, Videographer.
Published: January 7, 2011

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

via CAAI

Published: January 7, 2011

IT was just a single day in Phnom Penh, one of many, but even now I can’t get it out of my head. The genocide was over — Vietnam, the traditional enemy, had ended it by driving out the Khmer Rouge and setting up a collaborationist government. But in 1988, Cambodia was still mourning. So many people had died, and thousands of refugees, including those who had suffered from the Khmer Rouge and those loyal to it, lived in politicized border camps inside Thailand, waiting for a diplomatic settlement that never quite seemed to arrive.

Austin Bush/Lonely Planet Images

Central Market, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

“All the intelligent Cambodians either fled the Khmer Rouge or were killed by them,” my Cambodian friend and fixer, Phin Chanda, once said to me, lightly, as if joking. “We’re the residue.”

I was the bureau chief for Southeast Asia at the time, and I tried to go to Vietnam and Cambodia whenever I could from my base in Bangkok. That winter day 23 years ago was a warm one, and long, because you could not enter Cambodia except through Vietnam. Getting a visa into Vietnam was hard enough, and then you had to get permission to enter Cambodia, which was still a place full of ghosts. There were few residents from capitalist countries, except a handful of Australian aid workers. There was no air service, so I hired a taxi in Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, to drive me to Phnom Penh, through a landscape of rice fields and palms and scrawny villages to the stunning expanse of the Mekong, where it joins the Bassac and Tonle Sap Rivers.

The Vietnamese were trying to justify their occupation by memorializing the horrors of the Khmer Rouge. They had established a museum at Tuol Sleng, the Phnom Penh high school where the Khmer Rouge had interrogated and executed so many, first taking their haunting portraits, which hung on the walls. In a classroom, I stared at a now famous metal bed, with electrodes attached, where victims were tortured. The museum remains there, grandly titled the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

The Vietnamese were also building an ossuary, a memorial to the murdered. Cambodia was full of bones and shallow graves; I remember the empty gasoline storage tanks of a looted Shell station, used for the massed bodies of the dead. Finger bones were scattered in the grass.

Near the construction site of the new memorial, at Choeung Ek, south of the city, were heaps of bones, and a skinny Cambodian worker, with a kramar, the traditional plaid cotton scarf, around his waist, sitting at a picnic table under a thatched roof. He smoked a cigarette with one hand, while the other rested on a pile of skulls.

I then went to the Central Market, a massive and beautiful Art Deco structure left by the French. The people were scraping by; the vegetables were fresh and cheap; there was a bit of expensive buffalo meat hanging in strips, coated with flies. There were small shops to have Cambodian café au lait — with cloying condensed milk, the way my grandfather liked it; and a tiny massage clinic where young men and women exercised the old medical magic of cupping.

A young woman, carefully supervised by an older woman — her mother? — heated small drinking glasses and applied them to my back; my skin was sucked up into the glasses as they cooled. I must have looked like a sort of insect, an arthropod with glass scales. It hurt, but the pain helped me, in a way, suffer a little myself.

The day finally turned cool, with a stunning sunset and dinner at a little restaurant over the Boeng Kak lake in the city. I dined on stuffed crab and amok, a curried fish steamed in a banana leaf. Mostly I remember the short cyclo ride back to my tattered hotel in central Phnom Penh, staring up at the apartments faintly illuminated by stolen electricity and weak bulbs, thinking of how the Khmer Rouge had emptied the city entirely and murdered so many of its inhabitants, and how the people living here now, however meagerly, had won an extraordinary victory over ideology and evil.

I know the city is tarted up now, with too much Thai, Chinese and Singaporean money. But I want to see it again, to feel that quiet sense of relief that madness has an end.

Cambodia traffic steady

via CAAI

Published: 8/01/2011

Cambodia traffic not affected by political spatAir traffic between Thailand and Cambodia remains robust with no effect from the growing political tension arising from the arrest of seven Thais for allegedly trespassing onto Cambodian soil.

Executives of Thai Airways International and Bangkok Airways said yesterday that they have not seen any impact from the incident.

Demand for travel between Bangkok and the two major Cambodian cities, the capital Phnom Penh and the tourist destination Siem Reap, remained strong, with little concern among tourists or business travellers about potential risks, they said.

A group including Panich Vikitsreth, a Democrat MP for Bangkok, and Veera Somkwamkid, a leading member of the People's Alliance for Democracy, were detained by Cambodian authorities on Dec 29 after they crossed the border at Khok Sung district in Sa Kaeo and entered Cambodia's Banteay Meanchey province.

``I think [the border incident] is not an issue for travellers. They don't feel threatened as they see the issue is being worked out by the governments,'' said a senior executive of Thai Airways.

Both airlines reported high load factors on their flights spurred by high holiday season demand and a new visa exemption that took effect on Dec 16.

Citizens of both countries can now visit for up to 14 days without having to apply for a visa, either at the embassy, or on arrival at a border checkpoint.