Saturday, 22 January 2011

Court frees Panich, 4 others

via CAAI

Jail terms suspended in surprise ruling

Published: 22/01/2011

Five of the seven Thais charged with trespassing on Cambodian territory have been freed after the Phnom Penh Municipal Court gave each of them a suspended jail term.

The three-member judge panel yesterday found each of the five Thais _ Panich Vikitsreth, Narumol Chitwaratana, Samdin Lertbutr, Tainae Mungmajon, and Kojpollathorn Chusanasevi _ guilty on two counts of trespassing on Cambodian territory and illegal entry into a military area.

The judges said the five had entered Cambodia deliberately and sentenced them to nine months' imprisonment and a fine of one million riel (around 7,590 baht) each.

However, as the Thais had already served almost one month in Prey Sar prison, the court decided to suspend the remaining eight months.

The seven Thais were arrested on Dec 29 as they investigated claims by Thai residents living along a disputed part of the border that Cambodian military officers would not allow them to enter the areas where their homes were located.

The five Thais are now free to go home, but they will have to serve their jail terms if they enter Cambodia illegally again, the court said.

Upon leaving court to travel to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, Mr Panich, who wore a blue cap with the Asean logo, said that the whole affair showed ``the spirit of Asean''.

``I would like to thank all concerned parties. [The verdict] is a good sign for the Asean community and shows the Cambodian court has mercy,'' he said.

The verdict date was moved forward from the original schedule of Feb 1 to yesterday after the five Thais petitioned the court to speed up the proceedings.

The court read out the verdict at 7.35pm after a five-hour hearing.

The five Thais testified that they had no intention of trespassing on Cambodian soil and did not realise that they had done so.

Mr Panich told the court that the group met a villager, but did not talk, so he did not know that he was already inside Cambodia.

The Democrat MP also denied recording or taking photos of the area. He said he only had a mobile phone without a built-in camera.

A verdict has not yet been passed on the cases of Veera Somkwamkid, a Thai Patriots Network coordinator, and his secretary, Ratree Pipatanapaiboon.

Mr Veera and Ms Ratree face allegations that they spied on Cambodian military affairs and have been charged with espionage.

Mr Veera has been denied bail and remains at Prey Sar prison.

Ms Ratree was granted bail and is staying at the Thai embassy.

Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to the Thai foreign minister, said the five Thais are expected to return home today(saturday).

Mr Chavanond will fly to Phnom Penh to meet them.

``We will try to bring them home as soon as possible,'' he said, adding that the verdict was good news and that the ministry would continue to help Mr Veera and Ms Ratree as best as it can.

Mr Chavanond said the verdict for the two is likely to be handed down on Feb 1.

Mr Panich's mother, ML Sompongvadee Vikitsreth, said she was glad the case was finally over and that she could see her son soon.

Mr Panich talked to his mother on the phone after the verdict.

Soonthorn Rakrong, coordinator of the Thai Patriots Network, congratulated the five Thais on being granted their freedom.

``However, it would be better if Mr Veera and Ms Ratree had been released too,'' he said.

The network has been staging a rally at Government House since Sunday to pressure the Abhisit Vejjajiva government to do more to help the seven Thais.

The group will announce their next move after the release of the Thais today(saturday).

Meanwhile, People's Alliance for Democracy spokesman Panthep Phuaphongphan said his group will continue with its plan to hold a mass rally on Tuesday to persuade the government to revoke the memorandum of understanding signed in 2000 between Thailand and Cambodia, which they say is disadvantageous to the country.

They also want the government to force Cambodian people out of every disputed area and are requesting Thailand withdraws its membership of the Unesco's World Heritage Committee.

Media spotlight rattles Prayuth

via CAAI

Army chief loses his cool as reporters start to dig deep - Delegation back home after talks over southern insurgency fail to make breakthrough - Cambodia's trio of defenders react quickly to anyone attacking their country or its leader

Published: 22/01/2011

Reporters have a professional responsibility to ask blunt and direct questions that effectively gauge the interviewee's ability to keep their cool.

Prayuth: Didn’t like focus on old shoes

In many parts of Asia, reporters are loath to ask the hard questions _ but army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha's patience with some reporters has run very thin over the past few weeks.

The general appeared touchy at times when he was asked to comment on the calls for disclosure of the budget used by the dissolved Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation since emergency rule was lifted in Bangkok and some other provinces.

Gen Prayuth was visibly agitated again later when reporters asked for his response to the allegation that Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon may be to blame for the military's perceived unwillingness to offer help to the seven Thais being tried in Cambodia for trespassing on that country's territory.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, to whom Gen Prayuth retains a close relationship, has advised the army chief not to show his emotions in the presence of reporters. But his advice may have fallen on deaf ears.

A source close to Gen Prayuth said the army chief felt he could not help losing his cool as the reporters were apparently picking fault with him.

The pressure from being in the limelight as a public figure is also getting to Gen Prayuth. He also is not used to being in the glare of the cameras.

His lifestyle has been the subject of media curiosity. His frustration surged when the media developed a fascination with his old shoes and shirts.

The source said Gen Prayuth is frugal. It does not follow that one must wear or use everything brand new when he is appointed army chief.

A source in the army said Gen Prayuth had passed a strict order over the dissemination of news by the army. Any information leaked from a military meeting is immediately checked to find the party who had blabbed.

The army chief has barred mobile phones and communication or recording devices being brought into meeting rooms.

He suspected some of the meeting participants may have deliberately switched on their mobile phones while the meetings were in progress to convey what had been discussed behind closed doors to reporters.

He said the newspapers published what he said at the meetings sentence for sentence, which meant someone had called the media and let them listen to the live meeting.

In the morning, Gen Prayuth has made it a routine at the army's news briefing to go through what newspapers and television has mentioned about the army.

Gen Prayuth normally watches news on Channel 3 and reads ASTV Manager newspaper, dubbed the mouthpiece of the yellow shirt People's Alliance for Democracy. The general is thought to be ``anti-red'', a reference to his stand against the ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his pro-red movement.

The army chief is also suspicious of the motive of media outlets for comparing him to his predecessor, Anupong Paojinda. Gen Prayuth has been described as a career soldier and protector of the crown, as opposed to Gen Anupong who, according to some observers, came across as being aloof while in power.

The source said Gen Prayuth had confided with his close aide that the comparison was to drive a wedge between him and Gen Anupong, with whom he is connected through a strong fraternal bond.

However, there has been noticeable improvement after a close aide reminded Gen Prayuth that losing his cool could easily hurt his leadership, the source said.

When he was asked about the CRES budget again a few days ago, the army chief said he had everything ready to answer the reporters.

He explained that the budget spent on the operation to contain political unrest last year was lower than what many had speculated.

But there remains a barrier between the army chief and the media. He still refers to the media as mun, a Thai pronoun meaning ``them'' spoken with a tone of animosity.

Peace mission bears no fruit

A House committee that hoped to make a breakthrough in efforts to end the southern separatist strife has come back empty-handed from talks with an umbrella separatist group.

A delegation from the House committee on the security of the state travelled to Finland on Jan 11 to start talks with the people they believe could persuade separatist rebels in the far South into laying down their weapons.

Joh-aming: Headed delegation to Finland

The panel is headed by Joh-aming Tohtayong, a Muslim Democrat MP and authoritative figure on the separatist issue.

The insurgent attacks have taken place in Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and parts of Songkhla provinces regularly since violence reignited following a January 2004 arms depot raid in Narathiwat.

Mr Joh-aming also acts as a policy adviser to the government on southern security affairs.

He made an appointment to meet core members of the United Front for the Independence of Pattani, better known as Bersatu, in neighbouring Sweden.

The Bersatu is an umbrella group that is believed to set the direction for separatist movements active in the far South. However, smaller coalition groups under Bersatu are known to think and act independently.

More than 10 committee members hoped to talk to Bersatu strongman Dr Wan Kadir, but were disappointed when he failed to turn up.

He sent Tuanku Ismael, the Bersatu secretary-general, instead.

The meeting, held on Jan 15 at Lund University in southern Sweden, was arranged with the help of a researcher who spent some time in the far South.

The separatist representatives at the meeting proposed that the Thai government deliver justice and fairness in handling insurgent suspects and establish an Islamic court to deliberate cases stemming from insurgent unrest.

The meeting, however, did not touch on the issue of a ceasefire as it was the first time the representatives and the panel had met face to face.

It is unclear if they will meet again.

The panel members arrived back in Thailand yesterday.

Some prominent leaders of separatist networks live in Scandinavian countries that have provided a venue for peace negotiations.

Observers are sceptical that talks between Bersatu and authorities will yield results, because militant forces in the South, including the Barisan Revolusi Nasional, may not welcome the peace gesture.

Musketeers all for one

Cambodia's Press and Quick Reaction Unit's key men Phay Siphan and Tith Sothea have joined fellow spokesman Koy Kuong in defending the interests of Cambodia and its premier Hun Sen.

Cambodia's so-called Three Musketeers have been very effective in their swift political responses to whoever picks a fight with their beloved leader.

Sok An: Supervises press reaction unit

The unit was established in June 2009 in a sub-decree signed by Hun Sen and comes under the supervision of veteran politician Sok An, minister of the council of ministers.

From the outset, the unit aimed to react to news or any information disseminated by national, international sources and critics that is deemed a threat to Cambodia, its government and its national identity.

The Three Musketeers are part of a modernised and restructured Cambodian administration with veteran politicians, diplomats and brothers-in-arms in place as advisers to the government.

The group includes younger-generation Cambodians and their faces have become familiar with both local and foreign media as they have been doing their jobs as quickly as their unit title suggests.

Phay Siphan, in his early 50s, was one of the ministry's so-called 16 secretaries of state. A former refugee boy at the Thai-Cambodian border, he holds dual Cambodian and American citizenship and has been serving the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) for the past three decades.

Phay Siphan was an appointed senator under the CPP quota before the Cambodian senate became an elected one in 2006 thanks to his loyalty to the CPP. In 1979, he migrated to the US.

During his senate years, Phay Siphan and two other senators were sacked because of their opposition to a CPP-sponsored bill.

He was invited back from the US to become the unit's mouthpiece. Chhang Song, his senator colleague and also former information minister during the Lon Nol-led regime, was also invited to be an adviser to the Hun Sen administration.

Tith Sothea and Koy Kuong are 10 years younger than Phay Siphan. Like other spokesmen elsewhere, they have risen to the spotlight amid disputes and conflicts.

The unit's responses have been very timely in English and targeted the international audience. It has aimed its fire at the ultra-nationalist yellow shirt People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) in Thailand and Cambodia's opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

The unit is well staffed to monitor hostility, verbal or otherwise, against the Cambodian leader and their country.

The unit has complained strongly to Google that its cyber maps grossly misrepresent Cambodia's long-contested border with Thailand.

It has also responded to any critical NGO reports such as those furnished by Freedom House and Human Rights Watch that rank Cambodia low for its human rights record.

Earlier, the unit lashed out at key PAD members such as ML Walvipa Charoonroj in May and Sondhi Limthongkul in August for what it said were their attempts to obstruct the two countries from reaching a resolution to their border conflict.

Cambodia Court Convicts Five Thai Detainees

via CAAI


Five Thai nationals, detained along the Thai-Cambodian border, went on trial in Phnom Penh on Friday. The court found them guilty of illegal entry and of encroaching on Cambodia's military zone. That zone is along Cambodia's poorly demarcated border with Thailand.

The five Thai nationals were fined $250 each and given suspended sentences. They are now free to return to Thailand.

There are still two other Thais who've been detained in Cambodia since December. They've been charged with spying — a much more serious offence that carries sentences of up to 10 years. They're scheduled to be tried on February 1.

Hun Sen: 26 Years At The Helm

 via CAAI


Cambodia's rights record may worsen under continued rule, rights activists warn.

Hun Sen releases a dove at a ceremony marking the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in Phnom Penh, Jan. 7, 2011.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen marked 26 years in power last week, winning praise from his party for bringing growth and slashing poverty but criticized by rights activists for stifling freedom, silencing the opposition, and fostering corruption.

The 59-year-old Hun Sen is the longest-serving leader in Southeast Asia after the Sultan of Brunei and has vowed to remain in power for another decade, with a vision to bolster the economy by boosting rice exports and the incomes of Cambodians who now largely rely on the garment and textile industry.

“If I am still alive, I will continue to stand as a candidate until I am 90,” he said in 2007. But two years later, he said he would be out by 2023.

Chea Sim, head of the ruling Cambodian People's Party, said it would continue to pick Hun Sen as the Prime Minister after the next general elections in 2013, which it is confident of sweeping.

He said that Hun Sen had brought peace to the country, once ruled by the fanatically communist Khmer Rouge which caused the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people, and that he has maintained a democratic government based on the rule of law.

Other party officials said the prime minister has helped fuel economic growth, slashed poverty, and brought political stability.

Rights violations

But opposition leaders and rights groups say Hun Sen's continued rule will only worsen human rights violations and corruption and result in authoritarian rule.

"I think Hun Sen wants to consolidate power," said Brad Adams, executive director of New York-based Human Rights Watch's Asia Division.

"He wants to finish up his critics in Cambodia. He wants a one-party state even though he pretends to hold elections once every five years because he can manage and win them automatically."

Adams also accused Hun Sen of wanting "to control all Cambodia's resources, and he is changing Cambodia towards capitalism under dictatorship."

Cambodia was among 25 countries whose freedom levels plunged in 2010 amid an erosion of civil rights and political liberties, according to global watchdog Freedom House.

"Cambodia received a downward trend arrow due to the government’s consolidation of control over all aspects of the electoral process, its increased intimidation of civil society, and its apparent influence over the tribunal trying former members" of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, the group said in a report last week.

Transparency International, the Berlin-based monitoring group, said in a recent report that 43 percent of Cambodians polled said corruption had increased and 30 percent felt it had decreased, while 27 percent believed it was around the same.

Cambodia's judiciary was found to be the most corrupt sector in that country, it said.

Busting graft

But Hun Sen’s Office of the Council of Ministers said the authorities are moving forcefully to end graft.

“Cambodia now has an Anti-Corruption Law, and the Anti-Corruption Unit is actively and publicly pursuing cases of alleged corruption,” it said.

The Office of the Council of Ministers also dismissed criticism of Hun Sen’s long hold on power, citing former prime ministers Mahathir Mohamad and Lee Kuan Yew of neighboring countries Malaysia and Singapore respectively who were also at the helm for many years.

“This is a strange criticism indeed, for longevity in office is not typically held as a negative attribute,” it said in a statement. “But the prime minister is a relatively young man and in good health, and thus can be expected to contribute to the progress of the country for many years to come.”

Cambodia's main opposition party leader Sam Rainsy, Hun Sen's arch-rival, is living in exile after fleeing the country in 2009 fearing what he called politically motivated charges.

He was convicted in absentia in September last year and sentenced to 10 years in prison for a politically sensitive comment about a border dispute with Vietnam, cited by critics as an example of the government's intimidation of its opponents.

The lawsuit was filed after Sam Rainsy questioned whether the border had been incorrectly marked by the government to Cambodia's disadvantage.

Earlier, a year ago, a court sentenced Sam Rainsy to two years in prison for a political protest in which border markers were uprooted along the frontier with Vietnam. He led the protest to dramatize his claim that Vietnam is encroaching on Cambodian territory, an issue he often raises to garner public support.

Sam Rainsy had accused the court of being a political instrument, saying that "Everybody ... rightly says that the judiciary in this country is everything but independent, being only a political tool for the authoritarian ruling party to silence any critical voices."

Opposition out of touch?

With the opposition leader out of the country, the movement’s future appears bleak. Some civil society groups say that Rainsy's party has lost touch with its original pro-democracy platform, focusing instead on emotional nationalistic disputes with the ruling party.

Hun Sen, once a member of the ultra-leftist Khmer Rouge, later turned on the them and joined Vietnamese forces which defeated the Khmer Rouge in 1979. The Vietnamese communists installed a new Cambodian government that year, and in January 14, 1985, Hun Sen was made prime minister

He is sympathetic to Hanoi, while part of Sam Rainsy's support comes from appealing to traditional anti-Vietnamese sentiment among Cambodians who do not trust their much larger neighbor.

Yim Sovann, Sam Rainsy's spokesperson, said Cambodia might have achieved development under Hun Sen but that many issues remain unresolved.

The country is debt-laden and lives on foreign donor funds of 500 million dollars annually, Yim Sovann said.

Margo Picken, once a director of the U.N.'s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia, said Hun Sen and his officials hold absolute power and seize control of any institution that challenges that power.

While Hun Sen has moved to boost growth and reduce poverty, his circle has exploited the country's natural resources, pocketed financial gains and disregarded human rights, Picken said.

Concerns have focused, too, on Hun Sen's bid to curtail the activities of nongovernmental organizations.

The U.S. State Department last week cited a new law that "would constrain the legitimate activities of NGOs," and urged Hun Sen's government to hold talks with these groups and to "reconsider whether such a measure is even necessary."

Rights groups in December also voiced alarm as Cambodia began to introduce laws making it a crime to criticize judges or to hurt the feelings of public officials.

China's influence

Meanwhile, Cambodia has come under increasing influence by China, its top investor. Hun Sen was in Beijing last month, signing 13 agreements in areas including hydroelectric power, port facilities, and financial loans.

More than a year ago, Cambodia deported a group of 20 Uyghur Muslim asylum-seekers back to China despite protests from the United States and the U.N.

The Chinese played an important role as counterweight to Vietnamese influence during the 1970s and 1980s, but U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned during a recent visit that Cambodia should not become "too dependent" on Beijing.

Hun Sen has also been accused of nepotism, charges flatly dismissed by the prime minister. His 33-year-old son, Hun Manet, was promoted to a two-star general earlier this month amid speculation the young man is being groomed to succeed his father.

Hun Manet is already chief of the ministry of defense's anti-terrorism unit as well as deputy commander of Hun Sen's personal bodyguard unit.

Hun Sen hit back at the nepotism charges, saying that his son, who graduated from West Point and has a doctorate in economics at Britain's University of Bristol, is well-qualified for his roles.

"He joined the army in 1994. He has been in the army for 16 years, and there is promotion within the army ranks," Hun Sen said in a speech broadcast on national radio.

But Chea Vannath, a Cambodian independent political analyst, was quoted saying this week that Hun Manet's latest appointment was to “prepare for a smooth succession.”

A key factor for the “rapid rise in the ranks of General Hun is due, in part, to the fact that he is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, one of the most prestigious schools in the world,” said the Office of the Council of Ministers.

“He is representative of a younger generation of Cambodians, who enjoy the benefits of international education.”

Reported by Samean Yun for Radio Free Asia’s Khmer service. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

Two Allegiance Health nurses traveling to Cambodia to help people in need, spread God's word

via CAAI

By Tarryl Jackson
Jackson Citizen Patriot

Friday, January 21, 2011

Two Allegiance Health nurses and sisters are traveling abroad to provide medical help and the word of God for those in need.

Hannah Blondke, 26, and her sister Leah, 24, will be in Cambodia and working alongside doctors and volunteers to set up a medical clinic for underprivileged residents until Jan. 31.

The Blondkes were scheduled to leave for their trip today.

The trip was coordinated by Operation Renewed Hope, a North Carolina-based nonprofit focused on medical missions and disaster relief in the U.S. and abroad. Founded in 1991, the organization also offers opportunities for medical professionals, teens and other volunteers to serve God through short-term and long-term missions, according to its web site.

This will be Leah’s fifth trip through the organization, which has had missions in places like Peru, Uganda and Indonesia.

“We try to teach people how to increase their life expectancy,” Leah said. “I see the impact it has on people.”

On all the missions Leah has gone on, the people are always thankful for what the volunteers have done.

“When you leave, you see a difference already,” she said. “Everything is so positive and rewarding for us and for them.”

The Blondkes grew up in Pittsford. Leah has been a registered nurse at Allegiance Health for more than two years, and Hannah has been there for more than a year.

Leah graduated from Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Watertown, Wis., in 2008, and Hannah graduated from Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., in 2009.

This will be Hannah’s first trip through Operation Renewed Hope.

Along with using the skills she has developed as a nurse, “I’m looking forward to what the Lord will do,” she said.

Cambodia hosts ASEAN tourism conference

via CAAI

Over recent years, Cambodia has seen a steady increase in holidaymakers, drawn to the country by its cultural heritage, ancient temples, jungles and pristine beaches.

This month Cambodia plays host to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Tourist Forum, a conference called by ASEAN’s 10 members plus China, Korea, Japan and Russia.

The event was attended by several politicians and more than 1,500 travel sector professionals.

Cambodia Prime Mnister Hun Sen said: “Tourism is acclaimed as the green gold in fostering socio economic development and poverty alleviation as well as contributing to the development of the green economy.”

That is the challenge for Cambodia and the region which is working hard to shake off a reputation as a haven for sex tourists.

Despite the economic crisis, tourism in South East Asia rose by 10 per cent last year, to more than 65 million visitors. Cambodia itself saw two and half million foreign visitors and seven million domestic tourists – a rise of seven per cent on the previous year.

Cambodia convicts 5 Thais of illegal entry

via CAAI

The Associated Press
updated 1/21/2011

A Thai activist Panich Vikiitreth (left) arrives at Phnom Penh Municipal Court. -- PHOTO: AP

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — A Cambodian court on Friday convicted five Thais, including a member of Parliament, of illegally entering Cambodia but freed them with suspended sentences in a high-profile case that underlined long-standing political tensions.

The defendants had gone to the border in connection with claims by Thai nationalists that Cambodia is encroaching on Thai territory.

Judge Suos Sam Ath sentenced each to nine months in prison, but credited them with time already served and suspended the remainder. He fined each 1 million riels ($250) and allowed them to return to Thailand.

They were arrested Dec. 29 on charges of illegal entry and trespassing in a military zone after they crossed into northwestern Banteay Meanchey province. One defendant is a lawmaker from Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's ruling Democrat Party.

Two other Thais detained with them are to be tried separately on Feb. 1, with an additional charge of spying. They are the leader of a political pressure group, the Thailand Patriot Network — which claims that border territory held by Cambodia actually belongs to Thailand — and his assistant. The group's members in Thailand have been demonstrating for the release of all seven, accusing Abhisit's government of failing to help arrested Thais. Their protests have attracted much attention in the press, but small crowds.

The case has its origins in a dispute between Cambodia and Thailand over land near a landmark temple on their border, but has evolved into a Thai domestic political issue.

The International Court of Justice in 1962 ruled that the 11th century Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia, but the decision rankled Thailand, which still claims land around the temple.

The issue was virtually dormant until Cambodia applied in 2008 to UNESCO to have the temple declared a World Heritage site, an application backed by the government in power in Bangkok at the time.

Thai nationalists protested that the action threatened Thailand's sovereignty, though their protests were seen as mainly a way of rallying criticism of the Thai government. Both countries' leaders, defending their patriotic credentials, then built up military forces at the border, which have engaged in several brief clashes.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen also used the issue to build political support.

AKP - The Agence Kampuchea Press

via CAAI

AKP, Phnom Penh, January 21, 2011

Opinion- Thai Domestic Politics Internationalized at Expense of Cambodia

The trespassing of Thai politicians and agent provocateurs into Cambodia is not something which happened at the spur of the moment to visit Thai citizens who were supposedly facing hardship at the Cambodia-Thai border.

On the contrary, it was stage managed. Just a day before, a Thai court had postponed a verdict on the invasion of the TV station which was due on the 28th but was postponed for a couple of days to enable all the accused to be present. This was for yellow shirt activists who had invaded a television station in 2008.

So, what to do when you are a right-wing group in sight of losing its appeal? Well, always worth rolling out the old ‘call to patriotism’ that always stirs feelings and dulls brains. The day after the postponement a group of seven Thai’s – including MP for Bangkok Panich Vikitsreth and a leading member of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), Veera Somkwamkid – was arrested for trespassing on Cambodian soil.

According to the Thai account, the group was arrested on 29th December, 2010 while inspecting a border area near Ban Nong Jarn in Sa Kaeo’s Khok Sung district. There is no surprise in this as this is typical and serial of the Thais to do one thing and claim or allege another. Ancient Thai history is full of accounts of treachery and betrayal.

What is astonishing and unacceptable is the fact that nowhere is the area listed as a disputed area, until the trespassing took place.

The Thai Patriots Network says the group was on Thai territory. It backed its fictitious and frivolous claim with land documents and receipts of tax payments.

Curious, since the Thai government and even the group of seven themselves admit that they were over a kilometre into Cambodian territory. Still, no reason to let the truth get in the way of a nice bit of warmongering.

Fortunately, sanity prevailed, at least on the Cambodian side. While poor Cambodians were shot or set on fire when they trespassed into Thailand for economic reasons, the Thai Politicians and agent provocateurs were merely arrested and put in front of the court to answer charges, first for blatant trespassing and then one of them for espionage – a serious offense in any country and is often subjected to severe punishment or even capital punishment.

Now let us view the evidence:

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit admitted on the 14th of January that he sent Panich Vikitsreth to inspect the disputed border between Thailand and Cambodia. However, far more interesting was the news of video footage posted to YouTube which implies that the PM had known the group was going into Cambodia.

“Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva knew Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth had intruded into Cambodian territory before Mr. Panich and six other Thais were arrested by Cambodian soldiers, video footage posted on YouTube shows.”Please tell Somkiat to inform the prime minister that we are already inside Cambodia.”

“Hello [name], are you there? Can you hear me clearly? In case we lose the signal here, call Somkiat, the PM’s secretary – because we’ll/I’ll will talk to him personally, anyways – tell Somkiat we’ve crossed the border into Cambodia, so we can coordinate it, in case something happens.

Tell him – we’re now on Cambodian territory! But don’t let anyone else know about it, only the PM knows!”

The above are clear and incontrovertible evidence of the ill intentions of the trespassers whose sole intent was to intrude into Cambodian territory, spy of Cambodian military installations, at least one of them, stir up blind emotions in Thailand, divert attention away from the rising red shirt dilemma, and reignite the Preah Vihear issue which has thawed significantly since both Prime Ministers had direct contact with each other.

Cambodia’s Prime Minister displayed astute wisdom, enormous patience, and utmost restraint in reacting in the same manner as the delirious and misinformed Thai citizens.

Given the past history between Cambodia and Thailand and how Cambodians have been treated inhumanely by the Thais, it would have been normal for Cambodia to have a knee-jerk reaction which didn’t happen. In fact, Cambodia showed political maturity and its political leadership was strong and had not got carried away with emotions. They decided immediately, under the wise leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow the Cambodian courts to take over the case and charge them according to the laws of the land, which also applies to Thailand and any other sovereign nation in the world.

Cambodia’s position in letting the law takes its course was strengthened by the open admission of the Thai leadership, from the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Senior national and regional defense officials, provincial and also local officials who conceded the 7 Thais had indeed intruded deeply into sovereign Cambodian territory and had in fact, ignored warnings and calls for the seven trespassers to stop despite the efforts of the Thai military.

Instead of looking at the positives – Cambodian military did not react in the knee jerk manner like Thai border units who had indiscriminately opened fire or set Cambodian trespassers on fire. It would have been the right of the Cambodian military to do so as they have a sworn duty to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Cambodia whereas the Thais took what they thought was the political offensive by organizing demonstrations and making false and fabricated accusations and assertions.

There is without doubt overwhelming self incriminating evidence which are incontrovertible to implicate the 7 Thais without any doubt whatsoever, in any position, be it from a point of national law, international law, respect for the territorial integrity of nations and more importantly and alarmingly, the espionage activity of at least one or two of those who were arrested.

The Cambodian court was and is at the centre stage of this Thai stage managed political drama which is unfortunately as real as it gets, with screaming accused who vowed to fight to the end and other disgruntled utterrings.

The Thai Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand also made the right decision in calling for a press conference and acknowledging that Thailand had to abide by Cambodian laws, just as Cambodians had to abide by Thai laws if the reverse were to happen and that it was the right full place of the court to decide as Cambodia’s Judiciary should and must be respected.

He also set, speaking after the release of the four Thai nationals, (two were released earlier on bail) that he accepted and acknowledged the decision of the court to release on bail, on the condition they do not leave Cambodia, and the continued detention of one Thai national.

He further elucidated that the process undertaken thus far, had not affected the bilateral relations between Thailand and Cambodia which is improving after a period of tension and border altercations.

What is key to this unfortunate and yet unprovoked episode is that Thailand had invariably acknowledged the sovereignty of Cambodia, the independence of the judiciary and that their seven nationals did indeed trespass into Cambodia.

It is also rather unfortunate that the detained agent provocateur is a serial trespasser who was dead set on pushing his luck with continuous intrusion into Cambodia and testing the patience and resolve of Cambodia and its establishments.

This individual deserves to be punished. Veera Somkwamkid’ deserves the maximum punishment which is unfortunately in Cambodia, not capital in nature and Cambodia is not a nation at war. It if was, there was only one punishment – death. Cambodians are fortunately not barbaric in nature and recognize international covenants, laws and treaties. It may have its deficiencies but it is not barbaric like its neighbor who torture and set on fire or shoot to kill trespassers who are nobody but poor peasants seeking economic opportunities.

This whole episode also shows maturity on both Cambodia and Thailand as it did not create a period of upheavals and tensions as in the past. It also did not put a dent on improving bilateral relations. It also did not affect the Asean region as a whole and Asean is on track to be the ASEAN Community by 2015.

At least, both nations decided at the onset to allow the law to take its course instead of resorting to virulent rhetoric ( on the part of Thailand), and tensions did not flare up, though emotions were high in Thailand, simply because of a sustained and stage managed campaign of misinformation and delusions.

Thai politicians at all levels, including activists and agent provocateurs should realize that when one is living in glass houses, one should not throw stones. To put it more bluntly, when one has a domestic and political agenda to stirring up patriotism and nationalism with a view of gaining political mileage, one should not involve a sovereign nation, especially one with them they have a thorny history.

By T. Mohan, a long term resident of Cambodia and political analyst


Opinion- Quixotic Veera Somkwamkit And Associates Are The Problem

Time and again, Veera Somkwamkit has come back with fanfare on the stage of Cambodia-Thai relations. This time as before, the actions of Mr. Somkwankit and associates always aim at poisoning Cambodia-Thai relations which are already in a mood of optimism. For instance, it was reported that the visitors’ arrival from both sides rose dramatically. Khmers and Thais alike are so relieved to see their country being returned to full normalization: “as of 10: 30 am on December 1st, 2010, when the troop has been readjusted from the Keo Sekhakirisvarak pagoda, I declare full normalization has been achieved” declared Samdech Techo HUN SEN at the closing of the 2010 annual review of the Ministry of Rural Development on 29 December 2010, the day when Mr. Somkwamkit and his six other nationals were arrested deep inside the territory of Cambodia.

According to their video clips, Mr. Somkwamkit with his bad intention towards Cambodia, had persuaded his companions to enter deep inside Cambodia until they got arrested: “let’s go, if we go there, we will get arrested for sure ” , said Mr. Somkwamkit.

Obviously, this attitude of those “ladies and gentlemen” is seen as unusual with the commonly accepted norms and practices in international relations. The point to stress is that they are not ordinary people living next to the border that used to crisscross it for their daily life business or to look for their cows, but they are politicians or political activists from Bangkok.

From this point of views, this grotesque arrogant attitude was perceived in Cambodia as a showcase of their self-image of superiority vis-à-vis Cambodia. Did they intend to play the role of big brother towards Cambodia?

On top of that, Mr. Somkwamkit’s associates at the Thai Patriots Network( TPN) ranted out brashly that the seven Thai nationals were arrested in Thai soil, that Cambodia must release them immediately and unconditionally if not, it would affect the two countries relationship. They went on to insult Cambodia as hell .During their protest next to the border, one of their banners read: “Hell Cambodia”.

Undoubtedly, their self-righteousness is not on the basis of objective reality but is rooted in the realm of imagery and illusion. For them, they want to see what they wish to see and do everything to conveniently adapt and fit their misperception towards Cambodia and to achieve their ultimate goal to reconquer the so-called “Thailand’s Lost Territories” which is often used as a powerful tool in Thai politics.

That is to say that Mr. Somkwankit is typically and perfectly a representative of the kind. His illusion to have frontier in accordance with his dream makes him strong enough to run down the almost 800 Km along Cambodia-Thai border from Preah Vihear to the sea. Once before, he has threatened to uproot boundary pole Number 22 at Ta Muan Toch ruins. This time, he wants to see the pole Number 46 to be reinstalled further inside Cambodia.

Facing this dangerous provocation from Mr. Somkwamkit and associates, we hope that Thai Leadership and the majority of their people are working to stem the rise of those old cliché – ridden ultra-nationalists whose prejudices, misperception and illusion prevent them from objective reality and become a seedbed for hostilities with their neighbors, especially Cambodia.

As close neighbor, the relations of our two countries, as old saying goes, are as close as teeth and tongue; there are many inter-related fields to be cooperated and achieved and many problems to be solved. We have to commit ourselves for peace, stability, share security and prosperity in this global era. With this connection, we witness with great sympathy with the majority of Thai people, especially with those who live next to the border, for their bravely demonstrations to challenge the unwanted and disastrous actions of Mr. Somkwankit and associates. Ordinary people living next to the border on both sides must not be victimized by Mr. Somkwamkit’s illusion.

Given the hostilities rooted in fundamental issues of national identity, a strong leadership will always be needed to break the current impasse of the history. For Cambodia, we are fortunate and proud to have the strong leadership and pragmatism of Samdech Techo HUN SEN who has many times reiterated his willingness to transform the border area for a lasting peace, stability, cooperation and development.

We highly hope that at the end, reality will replace illusion and misperception in our relations; the moment when Mr. Somkwamkit will realize the strange irony of his fate. But from now on, he must follow the law of karma that needs to be fulfilled: on 18 January 2011, the court in Phnom Penh rejected his appeal to be released on bail.

21 January 2011
Sandra Rodriguez
Phnom Penh


NA President Leaves for 19th Annual APPF in Mongolia

Phnom Penh, January 21, 2011 AKP – A high-ranking delegation of the National Assembly led by its President Samdech Akka Moha Ponhea Chakrei Heng Samrin left here yesterday for Mongolia to join the 19th Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF), taking place from Jan. 20 to 28 in Ulaanbaatar.

According to a press release of the NA Secretariat, during the 19th annual forum, Samdech Heng Samrin will deliver a speech on regional peace and security strengthening.

The Cambodian delegation will also take part in the meetings on politics, security, economy, trade, climate change and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region, the press release added.

According to the schedule, the Cambodian NA president will return home on Jan. 28.

The twenty-six member countries of APPF include Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Chile, China, Colombia, Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Micronesia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, U.S. and Vietnam.

Japan will host the 20th APPF in 2012, according to the draft program of the Executive Committee Meeting of the APPF. –AKP

By Théng


The Construction of Neak Loeung Bridge To Begin Next Month

Phnom Penh, January 21, 2011 AKP – The construction site of Neak Loeung Bridge will be opened on Feb. 12, 2011, Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen said at an inauguration ceremony in Kampong Cham province on Jan. 20.

The construction of Neak Loeung Bridge will be financed by the Japanese government at an estimated cost of US$130 million, and it is expected to complete by 2015, the Cambodian premier said.

Once finished, the bridge will become the biggest and longest bridge in Cambodia, said Samdech Techo Hun Sen, adding that the bridge will provide a lot of benefits not only to Cambodia, but also to the Great Mekong Sub-region and ASEAN as a whole. –AKP

Article in Khmer by CHIM Nary
Article in English by SOKMOM Nimul


Cambodian PM Criticizes Opposition Group

Phnom Penh, January 21, 2011 AKP – Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen criticized the opposition group for faulting him on his long-time ruling of the country and the weakening of the opposition parties.

Speaking at an inauguration ceremony in Kampong Cham province, Samdech Techo Hun Sen said he not only made the opposition weak, but also died, referring to the recent suggestions made by Brad Adams, of Asia-Pacific Human Rights Watch.

He also attacked an opposition politician for his incitement to oust the Cambodian government from the power by following the same way of Tunisia.

“I will close the door and hit the dog inside”, he said, referring to the opposition politician who suggested the similar way of Tunisia.

Former Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled the country for 23 years, was ousted from power last week following mass protest from the people. He fled to Saudi Arabia last Saturday. –AKP

Article in Khmer by CHIM Nary
Article in English by THOU Peou


PM Visits ASEAN Tourism Expo 2011

Phnom Penh, January 21, 2011 AKP – Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen visited on Thursday ASEAN Tourism Expo 2011 being held at Koh Pich Convention and Exhibition Center, Phnom Penh.

This three-day expo was kicked off on Jan. 19 with the participation of some 1,500 buyers and sellers and over 100 international journalists.

“It’s a great meeting between tourism operators of the ASEAN family and the world to discuss and establish business relationship in the tourism industry,” said Cambodian Tourism Minister H.E. Thong Khon. –AKP



“Transformers 3” To Be Shot in Cambodia

Phnom Penh, January 21, 2011 AKP – “Transformers 3 – Dark Side of the Moon” will be shot in Cambodia in February 2011 at the Angkor Temple Complex and Bokor Hill Station, according to Mr. Nicholas Simon, producer of Indochina Productions.

“Transformers 3” is the third part of the well-known science-fiction movie about TRANFORMER robots defending the earth.

“We want to shoot in Cambodia as it is one of the most beautiful countries around. With both Angkor Wat and Cambodia’s natural wonders, we will be able to maintain the large production scale of TRANFORMERS while giving the impression that the story is traveling all around the planet earth,” said Mr. Nicholas Simon in his letter addressed to Cambodian Minister of Information H.E. Khieu Kanharith.

This production will highlight the beauty the Angkor Temple Complex to a worldwide audience, he said, adding that it is estimated that over 500 million people have seen the previous two Transformers and with TRANFORMERS 3, millions more will discover the beautiful landscapes and cultural heritage of Cambodia.

Mr. Simon also recalled his good experiences in film production working in Cambodia on projects such as ORACLE, Matt Dillon’s CITY OF GHOSTS and Legendary Pictures’ I AM THAT MAN. –AKP


AKP - The Agence Kampuchea Press

AKP, Phnom Penh, January 21, 2011

A high-ranking delegation of the National Assembly led by its President Samdech Akka Moha Ponhea Chakrei Heng Samrin leaves here on Jan. 20 for Mongolia to join the 19th Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF), taking place from Jan. 20 to 28 in Ulaanbaatar. Photo: Hun Yuth Kun

Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen and Japanese Ambassador to Cambodia H.E. Mr. Masafumi Kuroki cut red ribbon to inaugurate new buildings of Kampong Cham Provincial Hospital on Jan. 20.The new buildings were built at the total cost of USD12 million financed by Japan. Photo: Chey Phum Pul

Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen and his wife Lok Chumteav Bun Rany Hun Sen accompanied by government senior officials visit the ASEAN Tourism Expo 2011 organized by the Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia in Phnom Penh on Jan. 20. Photo: Chey Phum Pul

The weekly cabinet meeting is held today here under the presidency of Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen to discuss on the following agendas:

1.The draft law on financial regime and property management of sub- national level administration
2.The draft of the 2011-2013 public investment program
3.Other issues

Photo: Koc Ky

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance H.E. Keat Chhon accompanied by his ministry’s officials and the officials from relevant institutions inspected early this week a bridge construction site along the national road No.73 in Kratie province. Photo: Hun Yuth Kun

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister H.E. Keat Chhon, Minister of Economy and Finance meets here on Jan. 20 with Ms. Natalie Actow, president of Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom to the Asia-Pacific region.In the meeting, Ms. Natalie Actow told the Cambodian deputy premier of the closing of DFID office in Phnom Penh in the upcoming February as promised. Photo: Hun Yuth Kun

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister H.E. Keat Chhon, Minister of Economy and Finance presides over here on Jan. 20, the signing ceremony of the MoU on “Securities Training Cooperation in Cambodia” between the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia, the Financial Institute of Cambodia and the Securities and Exchange Institute of Hong Kong; and the graduation ceremony for 150 trainees of securities field.  Photo: Hun Yuth Kun

Cambodian Information Minister H.E. Khieu Kanharith and his wife Lok Chumteav Tep Rainsy together with the delegates of ASEAN Tourism Forum attended last night a Gala Dinner organized by Asian Trails Company, aiming to promote tourism by the railroads in Cambodia. Photo: Hun Yuth Kun

Cambodian Minister of Post and Telecommunications H.E. So Khun conducts a press conference on Jan. 19 in Phnom Penh to reveal the results of the 10th Ministerial Meeting of the ASEAN Ministers of Telecommunications Information Technology held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Jan. 13-14, 2011. Photo: Pal Song

Defense Seeks Release of Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan

Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Friday, 21 January 2011

via CAAI

Photo: AP
Former Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan, left, and Nuon Chea, right, look on during the funeral for Khieu Ponnary, the first wife of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, in 2003.

" ...any detention beyond Jan. 15 is unlawful."

Defense lawyers for Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan have launched separate complaints to the Khmer Rouge tribunal, claiming their clients have been detained beyond legal limitations as they await trial.

The defense teams say continued detention of the two senior Khmer Rouge leaders is a breach of the internal rules of the UN-backed court.

Son Arun, a defense lawyer for Nuon Chea, the regime’s chief ideologue and “Brother No. 2,” said Internal Rule No. 68 requires a hearing within four months of the closing order by investigating judges.

That date, Jan. 15 in both cases, has passed, he said, making Nuon Chea’s continued detention “an abuse of him by the law.”

Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan are to stand trial along with Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister of the regime, and Ieng Thirith, his wife, former social affairs minister. They are charged with atrocity crimes, including genocide, with a trial expected later this year.

Sar Savann, defense lawyer for Khieu Samphan, the nominal head of the regime, said any detention beyond Jan. 15 is unlawful. Khieu Samphan should immediately be released, he said.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath confirmed that the court had received the complaints and would make a legal decision accordingly. Experts say the internal rules on the matter have some room for interpretation.

Hun Sen Warns Against Tunisian-Type Revolt

Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Friday, 21 January 2011

via CAAI

Photo: AP
Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration in the center of Tunis, 19 January 2011.

“I will close the door and beat the dog.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday vowed to take harsh action on any Tunisian-style revolution among Cambodians.

“I have to send a message to people who want to inspire a riot [like] in Tunisia,” he said in a public speech in Kampong Cham province. “I will close the door and beat the dog.”

Hun Sen was referring to the ongoing social upheaval in the North African country that toppled a longtime authoritarian president and is calling for a total change in government.

“I remind you: first, do not play,” Hun Sen said. “But if you can gather enough people, please go ahead.”

Hun Sen, who has been in power since 1985 and is the sole candidate for premier for his Cambodian People’s Party, did not direct his remarks at any one person. But his speech follows a report on Radio Free Asia that inferred such a revolt “might happen one day” in Cambodia.

Kem Sokha, president of the minority opposition Human Rights Party, said Hun Sen typically reacts this way “when someone talks about his power.”

“But no one can take him over,” Kem Sokha said.

The government should not be concerned over a Tunisia-style revolution, said Chan Soveth, lead monitor for the rights group Adhoc. “I think our Cambodian people cannot act like the Tunisians.”

However, he said, the government should not be careless about such and event, which should act as a reminder to seek “equal economic growth sharing between the rich and the poor” and the improvement of human rights.

Cambodian survey: Majority says country moving in right direction

via CAAI

Jan 21, 2011

Phnom Penh - Most Cambodians believe their country is moving in the right direction, a US-funded survey has found, with respondents citing improved infrastructure such as roads, schools and clinics.

The findings were released Friday in Phnom Penh by the International Republican Institute (IRI), a US organization loosely linked to the Republican Party.

IRI country director John Willis said the 76-per-cent favourable finding was down from a peak of 82 per cent two years ago, 'but is still pretty high by worldwide standards.'

However, nearly a quarter felt Cambodia was going the wrong way, said Willis, with those who were unhappy naming corruption as their key concern, followed by jobs, poverty and inflation worries.

And more than a third of those questioned said the nation's key concern was its border issues with Thailand and Vietnam.

Cambodia is in the process of demarcating the borders with both countries, a process that in the case of Thailand has sparked violent clashes in recent years.

And farmers along the border with Vietnam have complained they are losing land to their more powerful neighbour in the process.

As most Cambodians live in rural areas and rely on subsistence agriculture, the survey also asked people about land.

It found three-quarters of the rural population owned less than 2 hectares of farmland, and most complained they lacked sufficient irrigation.

Around one in 12 rural landowners said someone had tried to take their land in the past three years, further evidence of the scourge of land-grabbing that regularly pits the powerful and well-connected against the poor.

The survey questioned a representative sample of 2,000 randomly selected Cambodians aged 18 and older in every province.

Cambodia to hold 3rd Senate election next year

via CAAI

January 21, 2011

Cambodia's top legislative body has adopted a schedule for its third legislature election in early next year, local media reported Friday.

State-run Television Kampuchea (TVK) broadcast on Friday that the Senate decided on Thursday to have its own 3rd legislature election on Jan. 29, 2012.

According to the laws, senators are elected by members of the National Assembly or lower house, and commune councilors.

The total seats in the senate are 61 with two of them are appointed by King Norodom Sihamoni and two other seats filled by National Assembly representatives, and the rest are elected to those representing the political parties obtaining seats in the lower house.

In the last senate election in 2006, the ruling Cambodian People's Party won 45, followed by FUNCINPC party with 10 and the remaining two went to Sam Rainsy Party.

The Senate was first established in 1999. The Senatorial election is held every six years while the lower house holds its election every five years.

Source: Xinhua