Sunday, 23 January 2011

Thailand wants Preah Vihear signs removed

What is your idea about Preah Vihear signs,  Does it need to be remove or not?

PM to inform public about arrest of seven Thais by Cambodia

via CAAI

BANGKOK, Jan 23 – Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will also inform the Thai public Sunday night about the arrest of seven Thais by Cambodian soldiers on charges of trespassing onto Cambodian territory on Dec 29, he said Sunday during his weekly TV and radio address.

Five of the seven were freed by the Cambodian court and returned to their homeland Saturday evening. The court in Phnom Penh on Friday ruled them guilty of illegal entry and intentionally trespassing into Cambodian territory.

They were sentenced to nine-month suspended jail terms and fined one million riel (US$250) each. However, their jail sentences were suspended.

The two remaining detainees faced additional charges of espionage and the court is expected to hand down its verdict on Feb 1 as earlier scheduled.

Meanwhile, Mr Abhisit also said that the Cambodian sign erected at Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara temple near the ancient Preah Vihear temple, charging Thais with being invaders, that he had consulted with Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, who confirmed that he would contact Cambodian troops to remove the sign.

There should be no problem on that, the prime minister said.

The Cambodian sign saying ‘Thais invaded this area before’ was erected in front of the temple on Dec 1 after Thai troops left the area in a bid to cool tensions centering on disputed areas along the border. (MCOT online news)

PM wants the temple sign removed

via CAAI

Published: 23/01/2011
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in his “Confidence in Thailand with PM Abhisit” weekly programme on NBT on Sunday morning that he had ordered army chief to contact Cambodian troops to remove the stone tablet, bearing the message “Thai troops –the invaders” written in Khmer.

The stone tablet was erected in front of Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara in the disputed 4.6 square-kilometer area near the Preah Vihear ancient temple.

Mr Abhisit said there should be no problem for Cambodia to remove the temple sign.

He said he will make a national address on NBT at 8.30pm today to explain the general public on the government and the armed forces efforts to seek the release of seven Thais detained in Cambodian Jail.

The five Thais, freed by a Phnom Penh court, arrived at Suvarnabhumi airport yesterday.

The prime minister insisted that the government will continue trying to help free Veera Somkwamkid, a coordinator of the network, who was denied bail by the court and his secretary Ratree Pipatanapaibul, who was given a bail and is now living at the Thai embassy.

Vietnamese-funded road opens to traffic in Cambodia

 via CAAI


An inauguration ceremony of the road No. 312 that linking Bontia Chak Cray border gate and National Highway No.1 in Cambodia was held on January 21 in the southern province of Dong Thap.

The 28.5km long and 9.0-m wide road built at a total cost of US$5 million funded by Vietnam’s Dong Thap province.

Governor of Cambodia’s Pray Veng province Ung Samy expressed his thanks for Dong Thap provinces’ valuable support to help Cambodia build the road.

He also suggested the ministries of communications and transport of both countries sign a protocol on goods inter-transport between Bontia Chak Cray border gate (Cambodia) and Dinh Ba border gate (Vietnam) to facilitate trade exchange between the two nations as well as promoting the road’s efficiency in the next time.

Sarus crane reserve finally created in Cambodia

via CAAI

Anlung Pring Management and Conservation Area for Sarus Crane and Other Birds

January 2011. Kampong Trach Important Bird Area (IBA) has finally been designated as Cambodia's second Sarus Crane reserve. On 6 January 2011, Prime Minister Hun Sen signed a sub decree to establish the Anlung Pring Management and Conservation Area for Sarus Crane and Other Birds located in Kampong Trach District, Kampot Province. This signing represented the culmination of consultative and bureaucratic process that began in 2006.

"Almost the entire process has been driven by the vision and dedication of Seng Kim Hout and the credit is his", said Jonathan Eames, Programme Manager for BirdLife International in Indochina. "At times it felt like the process would never end, but Kim Hout never lost focus or commitment to completing the task", continued Eames.

Globally important
Kampong Trach is one of the three most globally important non-breeding sites in Cambodia (a fourth is situated in Vietnam) for the South-east Asian race of Sarus Crane, which is considered globally Vulnerable. The other two are at Ang Trapeang Thmor, which has been a reserve since 2000, and at Boeung Prek Lapouv, where BirdLife and Forestry Administration also worked successfully to establish a Sarus Crane reserve in 2007.

217 hectares of seasonally flooded grassland
The newly declared reserve covers only 217 ha of seasonally inundated grassland and unlike Boeung Prek Lapouv, lies close to the sea and has a tidal regime, supporting mangrove and salt marsh vegetation in addition to wet grassland. In March 2010 the site held over 270 Sarus Cranes, more than 30% of the global population. The Sarus Cranes usually arrive in late November and remain until early May when they begin their migration to the wetlands in the northern and eastern plains of Cambodia where they breed.

Bou Vorsak, Acting Programme Manager for BirdLife's work in Cambodia, said this was another major achievement for BirdLife. "This is the second protected area in Cambodia that we have proposed and succeeded in having the government gazette. We are proud of this achievement."

Local conservation group
Since 2004, Kampong Trach IBA has been patrolled by a local conservation group, which has prevented encroachment and stopped hunting, as well as raising awareness of the importance of the area's biodiversity, and the benefits of sustainable use, among the local communities. The site lies close to the Vietnamese frontier where rapid economic development has pushed up land prices. This factor was the main reason why the designation process took so long as local vested interests tried to thwart the process.

2 more projects
With the designation of the site as a protected area now in place, the scene is set for larger scale conservation investment. Recently, nearly US$ 330,000 was granted to the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and Mlub Baitong via the BirdLife/Critical Ecosystem partnership Fund, to fully establish and conserve Boeung Prek Lapouv and Kampong Trach Sarus Crane reserves. These two projects will contribute to their long-term sustainable management by developing and revising site management plans, training and supporting local conservation groups, piloting longterm financing mechanisms, initiating community based ecotourism, and generating increased support among local people for site conservation.

Also, via the CPEF small grants scheme administered directly by BirdLife, The Cambodian Institute for Research and Rural Development (CIRD) received nearly US$20,000 to increase efforts to conserve Kampong Trach, by strengthening the capacity of the local community on improved and sustainable agricultural production, and conducting the feasibility study for introduction and implementation of a ‘Wildlife-friendly' produce scheme in this site. This project started since November 2010 and will end in late December 2011.

ជាតិ​ថៃ​៥​នាក់​ជាប់​ទោស​៩​ខែ: 5 Thais Sentenced to 9 months Imprisoment

Chai: Yellow-shirts should go home

via CAAI

Published: 22/01/2011
The yellow-shirt supporters of the Thai Patriots Network should end their rally at Government House as Cambodia now has freed the five Thais, House Speaker Chai Chidchob said on Saturday.

“The fate of the remaining two Thais, Veera Somkwamkid, a coordinator of the network, and his secretary Ratree Pipatanapaibul, will be known on February 1.

“If they were given jail term, the government will seek royal pardon for them. Therefore, it’s useless to continue rallying,” said Mr Chai.

The house speaker said the government had done a good job, while the he had contacted the Cambodian House speaker Heng Samrin to help seek the release of the seven Thais.

Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to the foreign minister, on Saturday morning traveled to Phnom Penh to take the five Thais back home.

It was reported that the five Thais, including Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth, will arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport late this afternoon.

A great Khmer outing

via CAAI
Sunday January 23, 2011

Story and photos by SHARON OVINIS

A group of youngsters, all grand prize team winners of the Mag Inc 2010 contest, were both moved by the poverty they witnessed in the streets of Siem Reap, Cambodia, and awed by its spectacular structures.

NO amount of reading or surfing the Internet prepared 12 bright, young minds for what they witnessed within hours of landing at the Siem Reap International Airport. As the students and three teachers from SJKC Chung Hua, Seremban, SMK Bukit Mewah, Seremban and Penang Chinese Girls’ High School made their way to the docks of Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake in the warm light of the late morning, swarms of children, some looking as young as five, furiously shoved their way around each other; no malice intended.

“You want drink, lady?” They stretched their frail limbs, hoping that the sale from the canned carbonated drinks they held in their palms would put food on the table for their families later that evening. “Wan dallar (one dollar)!” their voices echoed. Amidst the pleas, the bewildered looking students were whisked off into a motorised boat and within minutes, the excursion to the Floating Village took off with the three grand prize team winners of the Mag Inc 2010 contest.

A marked difference

Shopping for souvenirs: (from left) Yong Xian, Arlen, Wen Xiang and Natasha are taken in by all that’s on display at the Night Market.

Amanda Ng’s thoughts ran deep as she viewed the floating village that dotted the lake. The 16-year-old from the Penang Chinese Girls’ High School caught intermittent phrases as Vanni, the tour guide, strained his voice over the splutter of the boat’s engine. Everything the community needed floated here: the school, the church, the grocery stores, the petrol station and even the basketball court.

Children paddled to and fro in silver aluminium basins, very much like the ones our grandmothers used to wash and wring their laundry and bed sheets in. The scene drew giggles from the younger students; it must be so much fun! The sun-burnt children wore smiles on their faces.

The community went about their daily routine, unperturbed by us and the other boats that chugged up and down the channels with tourists. Breast-feeding mothers and limbless fathers skilfully manoeuvred around the tourist boats in their motorised sampan. Their children hopped effortlessly aboard the tourist boats, as the sampan pulled alongside. It was a race to sell more cool, canned drinks. The enterprising ones took it a step further. Some had snakes coiled around their hands and necks but their eyes said it all: “It’s photo opportunity, lady!” – all for the sum of US$1 (RM3.05).

“It was a culture shock for me although I had read up on Cambodia. We were shoved straight into the face of poverty,” said Amanda who had returned from Stockholm, Sweden just eight days earlier.

Apprenticeship training anyone? The students get a feel of the tools and wood carvings at one of the work stations at the Le Artisan Stone and Wood Carving Centre.

Amanda was one of the winning team members from her school who had participated and clinched the grand prize at the National Science Challenge organised by the Academy of Sciences.

What Amanda saw as exploitation of child labour distressed her greatly. “In Stockholm, you see the technology of tomorrow. In Siem Reap, you see the poverty levels. It’s disheartening to note what the world is coming to.”

For the younger ones like 12-year-old Natasha Yau of SJKC Chung Hua, however, the sight of “mobile” homes built on skinny stilts were a novelty.

“I thought it was fun having the water splash onto our faces during the boat ride!” she said.

Many disadvantaged groups in Cambodia earn a living by producing a range of handicrafts and souvenirs, which are of high quality and eventually find their way to markets around the country. Within Siem Reap itself, several centres such as the Le Artisan Stone and Wood Carving Centre as well as the Silk Farm were opened for tourists. Students were taken on a tour of the processes involved before the items were displayed on the shelves of air-conditioned stores.

The working conditions at the Carving Centre were a far cry from what the students had been accustomed to. The rooms that housed the workstations were dusty.

We made it!: (Clockwise) Arlen, Yong Xian, Alicia, Shan Shan and Wen Xiang take a breather after climbing the five-tiered temple mountain of Phnom Bakheng

The young visitors saw how blocks of wood were chipped away skilfully to reveal fine carvings of Buddha. The odour from the lacquer wasn’t appealing either as could be seen from the way Lee Shan Shan and Alicia Kwan, both aged 12 from SJKC Chung Hua, wrinkled their noses.

At the Silk Farm, the boiling, spinning, and weaving of silk thread from the cocoons were carried out in wooden longhouses installed with zinc rooftops.

It was hot and humid. But it was nothing less than awe and admiration that teacher Lim Siew Heoh from the Penang Chinese Girls’ School, had for the craftswomen who worked seven hours a day to weave one metre of exquisite silk.

“It’s amazing,” she said of the arduous task of moving the shuttle threaded with at least 30 multi-coloured silk threads.

Take your pick

The Psar Chaa Market and Angkor Night Market were the draw for Shan Shan and Alicia, as well as the teachers and students on the trip. After a quick “How to bargain in Cambodia 101” lesson by Vanni, everyone was geared up for great bargains via the art of haggling.

“We enjoyed the shopping and the bargaining bit with the shopkeepers,” said Shan San and Alicia. “I found their accent amusing too,” said Shan Shan.

Located in the heart of Siem Reap, the markets offered a lively shopping scene. Heng Wan Fen and Heng Yi Cheer, 16, were heard fervently discussing with their teacher Lim and schoolmate Amanda if they had exhausted the list of friends they had to buy souvenirs for.

“Could we catch more shopping action tomorrow?” was the next most popular phrase after the shopkeepers’ popular call, “Lady, you want something?” After all, there were so many items to buy: silverware, paintings, T-shirts, table mats, wood carvings. The list was endless.

What is a trip to Siem Reap without a walk through the architectural wonders of the staggering temples? For the 14 year-old students of SMK Bukit Mewah, Amelia Kwan, Alyssa Yau, Stephany Rajasingam and Lee Yong Xian, the trips to the Angkor Thom Temple, Bayon Temple, Terrace of Elephants, Terrace of the Leper King and the majestic Angkor Wat would be one of their best history lessons yet.

“I loved Angkor Wat! It’s so rich in history. It was amazing that I got a chance to climb the steep steps into the temple towers!” said Stephany. Team mate Alyssa said it was unbelievable that she was actually seeing Angkor Wat!

“I learnt a little about it from our history lesson back home. But I never thought I could be here. Being here has made the lesson more real and meaningful.”

The only “rose” among the thorns, Yong Xian was impressed by how Unicef and other countries like Japan, Korea and India were working hand-in-hand with the Cambodian Government to restore the temples. Yong Xian enjoyed climbing the steep steps of Angkor Wat and the other temples as “it proved to be a challenge considering how high and narrow they were!”

SJKC Chung Hwa team mates, Arlen Tan and Li Wen Xiang, aged 12, agreed. Both enjoyed their hike up the hill to Phnom Bakheng. “The scenery was beautiful at sunset!” said Arlen. “The climb up the stairs made the trip all the more exciting!” quipped Wen Xiang.

Teacher-in-charge, Shamala Devi, was glad that her students had the opportunity to see the spectacular monuments for themselves. “They know how blessed they are to be on a trip like this,” she said.

Amanda who professed to not being particularly spiritual in nature, was overwhelmed by the magnificence and grandeur of the past.

“It was riveting, just standing in one of the most majestic, holy sites in the world. Walking through the ruins, it was not hard to visualise the splendour of the Khmer empire so long ago. I could feel the aura and the energy within the Angkor compounds. Suryavarman II has certainly accomplished what he set out to do – to build something that still woos the whole world!”

A wake up call

For many of the students, the highlight of the trip was a stop at the Little Angels Orphange which houses about 80 children aged between four and 16.

The idea was mooted by the students of SMK Bukit Mewah who are no strangers to charitable deeds. Their winning entry at the Mag Inc contest, SHARE, advocated volunteerism.

Mission in motion, Amelia Kwan, and the entourage made a stop at the local grocery store to buy noodles, candy, dried food, bags of rice, toiletries, books and stationery items.

“I didn’t have much time to get a charity drive going in school so I opted to help my mum with the house chores to earn RM50 for this charity bit.” When asked what types of chores she pitched in, Amelia said it was the ironing. “It wasn’t too bad because I liked ironing anyway,” said the energetic 14-year-old.

“I was surprised to see that the orphanage was open-air though. In Malaysia, children live in homes. In Siem Reap, the facilities were desperately lacking. I’ve learnt to be grateful for what I have,” she continued.

Alyssa Yau summed up a poignant point: “I think if everyone contributes, no matter how little, we can bring change to this world.

“We need to better ourselves, heart and soul.”

Five Thais released by Cambodia arrive at Suvarnabhumi Airport

via CAAI

BANGKOK, Jan 22 - Five Thai nationals released by the Cambodian court arrived in their homeland Saturday evening, while the Thai foreign ministry expressed hope that similar good news will happen with the other two Thais who remain in the neighbouring kingdom.

The five Thais, including Democrat MP for Bangkok Panich Vikitsreth, Naruemol Chitwaratana, 2nd Lt Samdin Lertbutr, Tainae Mungmajon, and Kitchaponthorn Chusanasevi, arrived Suvarnabhumi Airport about 5pm amid a crowd of reporters seeking to interview them.

The five were accompanied by foreign ministry officials, led by Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to the minister of foreign affairs.

The returnees refused to answer persistent media questioning about the remaining two Thai detainees in Phnom Penh. Mr Panich said only that "everybody is in good spirits and strong."

After picking up the five, Mr Chavanond said that Cambodia has given good cooperation to the Thai authorities in the case, and said he hopes that similar decision will occur with Veera Somkwamkid, coordinator of the Thai Patriots Network, the sole Thai detainee still being held in Prey Sar Prison, and Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, Mr Veera's secretary.

The five were among seven Thai citizens who were arrested Dec 29 on charges of trespassing on Cambodian territory. The Phnom Penh court on Friday ruled them guilty of illegal entry and intentionally trespassing into Cambodian territory. They were sentenced to nine-month suspended jail terms and fine one million riel (US$250) each.

However, the remaining two Thais who did not attend the court session on Friday, Mr Veera and Ms Ratree, faced additional charges of espionage and the court is expected to hand down its on their cases verdict on Feb 1 as earlier scheduled.

"The foreign ministry reaffirmed that we have done our best to help the duo and we believe the issue will be clarified next week," said Mr Chavanond. He pledged the ministry will continue seeking bail for the two and urged Cambodian court to consider the case at its earliest.

"I have talked to everybody and they feel glad to return home," Mr Chavanond. "We have to say thank you to all concerned parties including the Thai embassy to Phnom Penh, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence for their successful negotiations which bring the first batch of the detained Thais back home."

When asked whether the five people will appeal the Cambodian court decision, Mr Chavanond said the issue has not yet been discussed, while asserting the Cambodian court verdict has no binding effect on the ongoing border dispute between the two kingdoms.

In related developments, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva convened a meeting of security related agencies at 4pm at Government House which was attended by Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Permanent Secretary for Interior Ministry Wichian Chavalit, National Security Council (NSC) Secretary-General Tawin Pleansri and Sa Kaeo Governor Sanit Naksuksri.

It was expected that the meeting would discuss the escalating southern insurgency problem following the attack on a military camp in Narathiwat’s Rangae district on Thursday in which four soldiers were killed and many others were wounded.

Thai-Cambodian border problem was expected on the agenda as the governor of Sa Kaeo, bordering Cambodia, also attended the meeting.

Mr Abhisit told reporters before the meeting that the Thai government would ask Cambodia to send the official translation of the court verdict to see whether it may have any impact against Thailand.

However, he affirmed that it would have no affect against the kingdom's sovereignty, no loss of land to Cambodia, as the verdict involved only the litigants. If the verdict has impact, the government will have to clarify and find out the solution.

The premier said he would tell the public about the incident and the case on Sunday and would go ahead to help Mr Veera and Ms Ratree.

As for Mr Panich's parliamentary status, Mr Abhsit said the legality of the Cambodian court's decision must be considered when reviewing whether the MP will lose his status following the verdict.

That status was thrown into doubt after he was given a suspended jail term by a Cambodian court. The Thai Constitution stipulates that MPs lose their status when convicted and jailed, or convicted and given a suspended jail term.

Mr Abhisit said that Mr Panich still qualifies as an MP and has full rights to vote during the Constitution amendment deliberation during Jan 25-26 as nothing indicates that he has lost his qualification. (MCOT online news)

'Invaders' jibe as Thais come home


via CAAI
Published: 23/01/2011

The 2nd Army chief has demanded Cambodian troops remove a stone tablet in the disputed border area bearing a message lambasting Thai troops as "invaders".

HOME AT LAST: Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth (centre) and Samdin Lertbutr (left) arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport yesterday. They, with Narumol Chitwaratana, Tainae Mungmajon and Kojpollathorn Chusanasevi, returned to Thailand after the Phnom Penh Municipal Court gave them a suspended jail term for trespassing on Cambodian territory and illegal entry into a military area.

The latest controversy in the Thai-Cambodian territorial dispute came as Bangkok yesterday welcomed back the five Thais allowed home by a Phnom Penh court after being found guilty of charges related to illegally crossing the border.

Lt Gen Thawatchai Samutsakhon said he had contacted Cambodian troops to remove the stone tablet, bearing the message "Thai troops _ the Invaders" written in Khmer, erected in front of Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara.

The temple, situated 300m away from Preah Vihear, is in the disputed 4.6-square-kilometre area claimed by both countries.

Lt Gen Thawatchai said the two countries have agreed not to build or erect anything that is indicative of ownership of the land.

"This stone tablet will have significant implications if it is used as evidence in cases involving territorial disputes in the International Court of Justice," Lt Gen Thawatchai said.

FIGHTING WORDS: A stone tablet with a message in Khmer branding Thai troops ‘invaders’ at Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara.

"We cannot accept this. I have told them to take it down.

"If they don't take it down, I may have a sign with a similar message erected."

Cambodia put the stone tablet up after Thai troops withdrew from Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara on Dec 1.

Army specialist Kanok Nettarakawesana is named on the tablet as one of the "invaders".

At the time, Lt Gen Kanok was commander of the Suranaree task force and led about 200 Thai soldiers to enter the wat to hold talks with Cambodian authorities regarding the release of three Thais detained in the disputed area on July 15, 2008.

The three were members of the ultra-nationalist Dharmayatra group, which camped out on the Thai border in Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district to protest Thailand's support of Phnom Penh's listing of the temple as a Unesco World Heritage site. They were freed after four hours of negotiations.

Lt Gen Kanok said he decided to lead the soldiers into Wat Kaew Sikha Khiri Sawara to stop Cambodian soldiers from taking the three Thais to Ban Komui on the Cambodian side.

Lt Gen Kanok insisted that the wat is located in the overlapping area and Thai soldiers have the authority to enter the temple.

"It was the first time that we had reached there. In the past, Thai soldiers never entered the area but I stood by our 1:50000 map which indicates the area is ours," he said.

Lt Gen Kanok shrugged off the name-calling by Cambodian soldiers.

He said he led the troops to enter the temple to assert the country's sovereignty over the disputed area.

He declined to comment on whether Thailand was at a disadvantage after the country withdrew its troops from the temple.

"You need to ask the people responsible for the issue," he said.

Meanwhile, the five Thais released from Phnom Penh arrived at Suvarnabhumi airport yesterday evening. They appeared exhausted and declined to comment.

On Friday, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court found each of the five Thais - Panich Vikitsreth, Narumol Chitwaratana, Samdin Lertbutr, Tainae Mungmajon, and Kojpollathorn Chusanasevi - guilty of two counts of trespassing onto Cambodian territory and illegal entry into a military area.

The judges sentenced each of them to nine months in jail and a fine of 1 million riel (7,520 baht), but suspended the terms.

Related: Panich's MP status to be reviewed
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday called an urgent meeting of relevant authorities to discuss what action should be taken in the wake of the guilty verdicts.

He said the government has asked the Cambodian government to translate the verdict into Thai so it can determine whether the ruling has any impact on Thailand's territorial integrity.

He said he would explain all relevant issues to the public today.

The five Thais were among a group of seven arrested by Cambodian authorities on Dec 27.

The remaining two are Veera Somkwamkid, a Thai Patriots Network coordinator, and his secretary, Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, who both face additional charges of espionage.

The Phnom Penh court is scheduled to hand down its ruling on the two on Tuesday.

BD to take Cambodian lands on lease to produce rice

via CAAI

VOL 18 NO -70 REGD NO DA 1589
Dhaka, Sunday January 23 2011
Nazmul Ahsan

Bangladesh will take Cambodian lands on lease to produce rice over there and import it to meet the local demands for the same.

Besides, Bangladeshi businessmen will establish rice husking mills in different cities of Cambodia.

A recent inter-ministerial meeting, held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), took the decision. Foreign Secretary Mijarul Kayes presided over the meeting, sources said.

Representatives from ministries of agriculture, commerce, food and foreign affairs attended the meeting.

The decision came following the visit of foreign minister Dipu Moni, to Cambodia in late December, 2010, a high official in the foreign ministry said.

The meeting decided to form an expert team comprising representatives from different ministries concerned and private sector. The proposed team, likely to be headed by foreign secretary, will shortly visit Cambodia to complete necessary formalities with Cambodian government, sources said.

"The team to visit Cambodia will explore all potentials in taking lease of their lands to produce food grains, particularly rice and import the same to Bangladesh," a top official in the foreign ministry said.

"A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Bangladesh and Cambodia will be signed following the visit," he added.

The foreign ministry officials said the government of Cambodia responded positively to a request for leasing out their lands to Bangladesh for agricultural purpose during the visit of Dipu Moni.

The terms of condition, particularly the lease-period and annual fees for the leased land, will be finalised by expert teams of contracting countries, sources said.

Asked, a high official in the foreign ministry, however, said no government ministry or agency conducted any feasibility study on the issue so far.

Bangladesh annually imports 3.0-3.2 million tonnes of food grains to meet the local demand.

The race to contain drug-resistant malaria

via CAAI

Ian Williams / NBC News
Testing for malaria in a village near Pailin, Cambodia.

By Ian Williams, NBC News correspondent

PAILIN, Cambodia – The border crossing between Thailand and Cambodia at Pailin has a rather bleak feel about it at the best of times. In the heavy monsoon rain, the dingy checkpoints are reduced to gray smudges. But a little beyond, on the Cambodian side, the neon of a casino beckons those Thais willing to brave the downpour for gambling tables, illegal in their country.

Until the late 1990s, these border areas were the last holdout of the murderous Khmer Rouge, which was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Cambodians.

But this mosquito-infested area now has another sinister claim to fame – for deadly malaria. This is the region where resistance to just about every major anti-malarial drug has first taken hold.

And history shows that once resistance emerges, it can quickly spread worldwide, rendering the drugs useless in the fight against a mosquito-borne parasite that still kills nearly a million people worldwide each year, most of them in Africa.

The Khmer Rouge have now been defeated, but not drug-resistant malaria. The Pailin area is now the epicenter of a fight to contain a growing resistance to Artemisinin, which is the world's main anti-malarial drug.

Pre-emptive strike

"We've got to contain the parasite before it spreads throughout the region. If that happens it’s going to be a public health emergency," said Dr. Najibullah Habib, spearheading the containment project on behalf of the World Health Organization.

We met Habib not far from the border, where hundreds of health workers are moving from village to village, testing everybody, a pre-emptive strike to try to find, treat and monitor those with malaria symptoms.

"If we lose this first-line drug, this Artemisinin, then we are lost," said Christopher Raymond, an American drug specialist working with the project. He said that as of today there is no good backup if malaria becomes Artemisinin-resistant.

The alarm was first sounded by U.S. Army researchers, who showed that in the border areas Artemisinin was taking far longer to clear malaria than in the past.
Ian Williams / NBC News
Malaria victim at the public hospital in Anlong Veng, Cambodia

"It was clear that the parasites are becoming less susceptible to the drug," said David Saunders of the Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences (AFRIMS), which has now extended its study further along the border.

"We've really come in at a crucial time," said Saunders' colleague Stuart Tyner. "We're fortunate to have identified this now," he added, "at a time when it’s just becoming an issue."

He says there is still time to fight it, and working with Cambodian health officials their aim now is to see if it is spreading, how fast, and to test different combinations of drugs to fight it.

"It's harder for parasites to develop resistance to multiple drugs," Tyner told me as he studied through a microscope parasites recently extracted from a patient in the public hospital at Anlong Veng, where AFRIMS has set up a state-of-the-art laboratory.

They also want to learn how the parasite develops its resistance.

Why here?
While U.S. experts are playing a crucial role in the research and containment projects, USAID and the Gates Foundation are throwing millions of dollars into the battle.

But why this border? Why has resistance always started here?

Experts speculate that conflict, poverty and a lot of migrants moving across the border have all played a part.

Resistance also spreads when people don't take drugs properly, and counterfeit and sub-standard drugs are also to blame. They have been rife in the border areas.

"It's a race against time," said Christopher Raymond, an expert in counterfeit drugs, whose project is backed by U.S. Pharmacopeia and USAID. He's been part of a blitz on local pharmacies.

He says the fake drugs are often very good, though others contain just a pinch of the real thing.

"It's like putting out a fire with gasoline. It’s eventually going to explode into resistance because you are constantly under-treating it."

They have also banned the use of pure Artemisinin, figuring that the life of the drug can be better extended if it is used in combination with others.

Ian Williams / NBC News
After the rains. late afternoon near Pailin, the epicenter for drug-resistant malaria.

Officials say they are having an impact, though separately a Cambodian colleague said he was still able to buy banned anti-malarial drugs in three of six pharmacies he visited.

And before Christmas the WHO warned that a suspected drug-resistant strain of malaria has now been found along the Thai-Myanmar border and in a province of Vietnam – an ominous development.

Cambodia's rain-soaked border areas hardly look like the epicenter of anything, but the stakes are high: What happens here over coming months could impact the health of millions worldwide.

Cambodia: mobile-phone silliness

The sight of someone talking on two phones at the same time isn't uncommon.

 via CAAI

By Terry McCoy — Special to GlobalPost

Published: January 22, 2011

A Cambodian gambler talks on several mobile phones during a boxing match at a television station in Phnom Penh, May 15, 2010. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Lim Sivhuy owns four mobile phones and has five different phone numbers but it’s nearly impossible to get her on the line.

Meanwhile, an entire day can go by trying. Upon first attempt, you’re told Lim’s number is busy. A different number you’re told doesn’t exist. Later, when you try again with yet a different number, you only get ringing. Then an automated voice encourages you to try again — but you don’t.

In this small Southeast Asian country wedged between Thailand and Vietnam, the experience calling 20-year-old Lim in western Cambodia's Pursat town is not in any way unusual.

Urban Cambodia is so over-saturated with mobiles and telephone numbers that it’s often impossible to get anyone, anywhere on the line.

Rice farmers own two mobile phones for no apparent reason. Markets teem with dozens of mobile phone shops all hawking the same ware.

There are way too many service providers. In 2006, Cambodia was host to three mobile-phone service providers, but by the end of 2010, there were nine — a shocking occurrence given that Cambodia has a population of 15 million people and many countries with far more people manage with fewer providers. Thailand, for instance, with a population of 61 million, has four providers, and Vietnam's 90 million citizens are serviced by seven.

Recognizing that competition had become too crowded, two mobile phone service providers — Smart Mobile and Star-Cell — announced a merger in early January, a move that may spark additional consolidations, some analysts contend.

“It’s one of the most competitive environments in the world,” said Smart Mobile Chief Executive Officer Thomas Hundt. “To have eight cell phone providers for a country of 15 million people, I don’t know of another country where the ratio is like Cambodia’s.”

The spoils of competitive mobile-phone provider warfare have been good to the kingdom. Deals abound as providers pivot for more customers, and mobiles are always on the cheap, some going for only $5.

Between 2009 and 2010, the number of mobile-phone connections in Cambodia more than doubled, leaping from 4.2 million telephone numbers to 8.5 million, according to the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications. Six years ago, when far fewer network providers did business, there were only 690,000 numbers.

Things, as a result, have gotten a little silly. The sight of someone talking on two phones at the same time isn’t uncommon.

People pester business card designer Souk Srey Mom into cramming all five or six of their telephone numbers onto a single card, despite her admonishments that “it won’t be beautiful — a mess!”

Others vie for “lucky” telephone numbers, designated as such based on complicated calculations or seemingly arbitrary distinctions. The estimated price of the number “017999999”? Three grand.

“Yes, I have a lot of cell phones,” related Lim Sihvuy, remarkably enough, over the phone. “This is so because it is very easy and very convenient with so many phones and they are so modern and so beautiful.”

That’s just the thing, said a spokesman at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, who asked to remain nameless. They’re easy. They’re convenient. They’re modern. In a country rushing to develop, the mere act of owning mobile phones says more about your stature than whether you have money left over to actually pay for service. Thus a country of inoperative telephone numbers and unreturned calls. Too many mobiles; not enough money to use them. Countless numbers hang in ether.

Statistics are vague at best. No one knows the exact percentage of Cambodians using mobile phones, though governmental estimates usually hover around 50 percent. Yet, every available statistic and anecdote suggests there will soon be more mobile-phone shops, more telephone numbers, more confusion.

In rural Kampong Thom province, Lim Vuthy, a slight monk who smokes thin cigars, owns eight — count 'em — eight mobile phones.

On a recent Monday afternoon at his pagoda he reclined on wooden furniture, his full arsenal before him. Virtually every mobile brand and service provider present and accounted for.

Each telephone is absolutely necessary, he said, referring to situations when he receives three urgent calls at the same time and conducts the conversations simultaneously. Ah, the social responsibilities of today’s monkhood.

“It’s difficult to talk on three cell phones at the same time,” Lim began to explain, before he was interrupted by a phone call. Looking abashed, Lim answered, telling the caller he couldn’t talk, and placed the phone back among the collection.

“Having so many cell phones is complicated and it becomes more complicated,” Lim continued and then paused for a moment. “I don’t know if I’ll have more cell phones later. There’s nothing difficult about having so many cell phones.”

5 Thais convicted of illegal entry in Cambodia return to Thailand+

via CAAI

BANGKOK, Jan. 22 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Five Thais who were convicted Friday of having entered Cambodia illegally, arrived at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport on Saturday after being expelled from Cambodia.

Two other Thai nationals who entered Cambodia with them are still in Phnom Penh awaiting trial on illegal entry and espionage.

The five who returned to Bangkok, including Thai Democrat Party lawmaker Panich Vikitsreth, told the press their colleagues still in Cambodia remain "strong."

Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to the Thai foreign minister, said the Thai government would do its best to help activists Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, the two who remain in Cambodia.

Chavanond added the Thai and Cambodian governments have discussed the cases and final disposition of the cases is expected soon.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters he will explain his position on all the cases during his weekly national television program, adding he hopes the two pending cases are resolved quickly.

The court in Phnom Penh sentenced the five Thais now in Bangkok to nine months in jail for illegal entry, then suspended their sentences. They were also fined 1 million riel each (about $250).

The seven Thai nationals -- Panich and six activists of the People's Alliance of Democrats -- crossed the border between Thailand's Sa Kaeo Province and Cambodia's Banteay Meanchey Province on Dec. 29 and were detained by Cambodian soldiers.

The alliance rejects Cambodia's demarcation of the border in the area.

They were charged Dec. 30 with entering Cambodia illegally and with unlawful trespass in a Cambodian military zone.

Six of them, including the five who returned to Thailand on Saturday, were granted bail and were housed at the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh until their trials.

But Veera, secretary general of the People's Network Against Corruption and an activist in the Thailand Patriot Network, has been detained in custody since his arrest.

He and his secretary Ratree are charged with of espionage, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, in addition to illegal entry and trespass.

The Phnom Penh court has set Feb. 1 for their trial.

30th ASEAN Tourism Forum ends in Cambodia

via CAAI

( Updated January 22, 2011
PHNOM PENH (Xinhua) - The 30th Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Tourism Forum concluded on Friday evening with a closer cooperation among ASEAN countries and its dialogue partners, said Cambodian Tourism Minister Thong Khon at the closing ceremony.

"Our great achievement made in the forum this year is the adoption of the ASEAN tourism strategic plan 2011-2015 aimed to turn the ASEAN into a world class tourist destination by 2015," he told about 400 participants.

"Besides this, I hope that buyers and sellers have met their business partners for future cooperation," he said, adding that the forum also created a closer environment of cooperation among ASEAN countries and ASEAN with dialogue partners including China, Japan, South Korea, India and Russia.

The 30th ASEAN Tourism Forum kicked off on Jan. 15.

During the event, there had been a series of meetings of ASEAN tourism ministers, ASEAN tourism ministers+3 (China, Japan and South Korea) and ASEAN tourism ministers+ India and Russia.

Also, there was the ASEAN Travel Exchange with the participation of up to 1,500 sellers with 512 booths from hotels, airline companies, tour operators and travel agencies in ASEAN countries and 466 buyers from the ASEAN, Asia, Europe and the United States of America.

The 31st ATF will be held in Indonesia in 2012.

The ASEAN consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Five trespassing Thais return from Cambodia

via CAAI

Jan 22, 2011

Bangkok - Five Thai nationals arrested last month for illegally entering Cambodia returned to Thailand Saturday after being set free by a Phnom Penh court.

The five, including member of parliament Panich Vikitsreth of the ruling Democrat Party, arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport on Bangkok Airways flight PG 934.

They refused to speak to journalists at the airport before being rushed away in a van.

On Friday, Phnom Penh Municipal Court freed the five Thais on suspended sentences and fined them one million riel (250 dollars) each for illegally entering Cambodia on December 29.

'(The verdict) is a good sign for the ASEAN community and shows the Cambodian court has mercy,' Panich said after his release in Phnom Penh on Friday.

Thailand and Cambodia are both members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), a grouping which is supposed to demonstrate regional solidarity.

Thailand and Cambodia ties have been poor since mid-2008, when a spat broke out between the two neighbouring countries over the sovereignty of land adjacent to the Pheah Vihear Temple, an 11th century Hindu temple.

The temple sits on the Dongrak mountain range that defines the Thai-Cambodian border, and has been the source of sovereignty dispute for more than five decades.

Although the World Court ruled the temple belonged to Cambodia in 1962, the Thais still claim a 4.2 square kilometre plot of land adjacent to the temple.

The dispute escalated after UNESCO declared the temple a World Heritage Site in July, 2008.

Although Cambodia on Friday released five of the Thais who trespassed on their territory on December 29, allegedly investigating another border dispute, it has kept another two under detention.

The two include Veera Somkwamkid and his assistant Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, members of an ultra nationalist Thai group, who face more serious charges of spying.

Cambodia Should Rethink Its Plan For NGOs

The Cambodian government is considering plans to impose controls on the large number of foreign and domestic non-governmental organizations.

via CAAI

VOA, 01-21-2011

Photo: Courtesy: R. Carmichael
Cordell Jacks, who heads International Development Enterprises Cambodia's water and sanitation program, stands next to one of the award-winning EZ Latrines that the charity hopes will help improve sanitation in rural Cambodia. A new law would put restrictions on such organizations.

We urge Cambodian officials to reconsider whether such a measure is needed.

The Cambodian government is considering plans to impose controls on the large number of foreign and domestic non-governmental organizations that operate medical, educational, humanitarian, civil society and other programs in their country.

The law, as currently drafted and announced in December, would impose burdensome restrictions on civil society organizations, including requirements to register and report their activities every year, in addition to several other vague requirements for obtaining permission to continue their work. The Royal Government of Cambodia says the law is needed to increase transparency among the Southeast Asian nation's network of NGOs, and prevent terrorists and criminal gangs from using groups based in Cambodia as fronts for their operations.

The move is drawing mounting criticism from civil society representatives, who fear the law represents an effort by the government to control what their groups do for the Cambodian people and where they do it. Small community-based groups say compliance with the current draft law would be difficult and could threaten their very existence.

The United States shares these concerns, opposing any law that constrains the legitimate activities of NGOs. We urge Cambodian officials to reconsider whether such a measure is needed.

A strong and free civil society is vital to strengthening democratic institutions, enhancing economic and humanitarian well-being and promoting a sustainable economy. In Cambodia, as in many other countries, NGOs and other similar groups make important contributions in these areas. Government officials there have asked for input from civil society representatives about the draft law, and the United States urges the Royal Government of Cambodia to take their concerns very seriously as they move forward on the issue.