Sunday, 6 February 2011

Cambodia-thai border clashes

Thai prime minister defends army's actions in border battle

THAI (Abhisit Vejjajiva and his government) IS VERY GOOD IN BLOODY BULLSHIT!! (in the 80's, Laos fight with Thai to take back their land too right? )

via CAAI

Bangkok, Feb 6 (DPA) Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva insisted Sunday Thai troops were not to blame for deadly border skirmishes with Cambodia, as a fragile truce held along a strip of disputed land.

'I confirm that Thailand did not invade Cambodian territory,' Abhisit said. 'But we reserve our right to protect our sovereignty in an appropriate way.'

'Our counterattacks never target civilians, only the (Cambodian) military that started firing on us,' he said.

One Thai soldier, one civilian and at least three Cambodians were reportedly killed Friday and Saturday in exchanges of small arms and artillery fire along the border between Thailand's Si Sa Ket province and Cambodia's Preah Vihear province.

About 15 Thai soldiers were wounded and several houses damaged.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong lodged a protest with the UN Security Council Saturday, accusing Thai troops of 'flagrant aggression'.

The fighting took place near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, which has been disputed by the two countries for more than 50 years.

The cliff-side Khmer Hindu temple was awarded to Cambodia in a 1962 ruling by the International Court of Justice, but ownership of adjoining land has remained in dispute.

Cambodian authorities Saturday said the temple was damaged by Thai fire during the two-day artillery duel.

Abhisit has come under political pressure to take a stronger line against Cambodia.

Several thousand demonstrators from the ultra-nationalist People's Alliance for Democracy camped outside Government House to demand the prime minister's resignation because of his alleged failure to deal decisively with the border issue.

The alliance played a key role in bringing down three Thai governments since 2006.

The protesters are demanding that Thailand scrap a 2000 memorandum of understanding with Cambodia to solve border disputes peacefully.

Under terms of that agreement, Thai and Cambodian border forces negotiated a ceasefire Saturday and officers from both sides were meeting Sunday to maintain the peace.

Abhisit said that due to the border clashes he would seek to suspend the ancient temple's listing as a UNESCO World Heritage sight, at a meeting scheduled in June in Bahrain.

He called for Thais of all political persuasions to support Thai forces deployed along the border.

Abhisit Vejjajiva government must go! must go!, PAD claims

via CAAI

By The Nation on Sunday
Published on February 6, 2011

The People's Alliance for Democracy resolved yesterday that Abhisit Vejjajiva government must go. Protesters also agreed to intensify their rally, although they did not explain how they would try to do this.

At around 8.30pm, thousands of protesters - bigger than previous days, occupied the areas from Makkhawan Bridge to Misakawan Intersection.

The PAD had said earlier it would mobilise supporters yesterday and seek their agreement on how to ramp up the rally to pressure the government.

Speakers including PAD leader Chamlong Srimuang took turns to attack the government and military for their handling of the Thai-Cambodian border dispute.

The speaker asked protesters: "Who wants to give Abhisit another chance? Please raise your hand." After silence, the speaker asked whether the government must be ousted, the protesters shouted 'yes' in response.

Police yesterday installed layers of barbed wire at Government House and beefed up security to prevent protesters from getting into the compound.

The organisers prohibited weapons and alcohol. Yellow-shirt guards and plain-clothed police patrolled the rally site while police in uniform strictly guarded Government House.

PAD has been protesting for 12 days. It is calling for the government to cancel a Memorandum of Understanding signed with Cambodia in 2000. It also wants Thailand to withdraw from the World Heritage Committee working on the listing of Preah Vihear and to push back Cambodians "encroaching" on disputed territory along the border.

In a press conference yesterday, Chamlong claimed said that fighting with Cambodia would not have broken out if the government had followed the PAD's three demands. It had yielded to Cambodia because it was so weak and cowardly, he said.

In regard to a challenge by the Army chief that the protesters fight along the border themselves, Chamlong said he was a veteran soldier but it was the Army's duty to push back Cambodians out of "Thai territory" before negotiating. Thailand had the military capacity to do that easily.

"In previous times, (soldiers) had to fight as it was important to protect Thai soil. Don't fear that soldiers will die. All soldiers know that dying on duty is possible. (Anyone) afraid of wars should not have become soldiers."

He said the PAD would send donations to provide food for people evacuated from affected areas along the border.

Psychiatry in Cambodia Founded by Norwegian

Ka Sunbaunat og Edvard Hauff in front of photographs of victims of the Khmer Rouge regime which remains a collective trauma for the Cambodian people.

via CAAI

06 February 2011 | news Newsdesk
Text and photos by Fridtjof Morten Jonassen

Fifteen years ago, Norwegian psychiatry professor Edvard Hauff went on a home visit in a rural area of the traumatized Cambodia where the son was possessed by an evil spirit. Inside the hut, Edvard Hauff found a teenage boy with ball and chain around his legs. The boy had been acting strange over a long period of time; he was constantly exhilarated, saw bizarre things and played the guitar and sang songs without breaks. The mother was on the ground crying and the boy’s sisters had left ashamed of the brother’s behavior. They were all convinced that the boy was possessed by evil spirits and, therefore, considered to commit collective suicide. In a culture where it’s all about presenting a blameless appearance, this was truly a disaster.

Hauff recognized the boy’s behavior as a manic psychosis and gave him some psycho pharmaceuticals. Only months after Hauff’s visit, the young man was fit as ever and had even opened his own stall in the village.

"It is experiences like that, which makes it meaningful and fulfilling to work with psychiatry in this country," says Hauff.

But how did a psychiatry professor from Ulleval in Norway find his way to the rural areas of Asia’s backyard?

I meet Edward Hauff at the medical faculty in Phnom Penh, where he is invited to be an external examiner for the senior students, who for the last three years have specialized in psychiatry. Apparently Hauff is a star within the field of psychiatry in Cambodia.

"My good friend Edvard is the father of psychiatry here in Cambodia," explains professor and Dean Ka Sunbaunat, and continues:

"Our traumatized people had until a few years ago no chance of receiving psychiatric treatment. Thanks to Edvard, modern treatment has become available throughout the entire country."

Rigid examinerThe stress level for the already nervous students isn’t exactly reduced when they are told that the professor from "the North Pole" is going to be their examiner. Not only is he half a meter taller than most people in Cambodia, last year he failed several students.

"What did your patient experience during the period of the Khmer Rouge?" Hauff asks the last of the students to be axamined that day.

Mak Raveang humiliatingly admits that she had forgotten to ask that particular question. On the other hand, she satisfactorily accounts for potential diagnoses and possible treatments, and, thus, passes.

"Congratulations! You are now Cambodia’s 38th specialist in psychiatry," Hauff says.

"But remember to ask your elderly patients this. Some were inflicted great physical and psychological traumas during Pol Pot," adds Hauff.

Royal BlessingNot until the middle of the 90’s did doctors of Cambodia get the opportunity to specialize within the field of psychiatry. Edvard Hauff has been instrumental in providing this education. Cambodia now has 38 psychiatrists spread across the country’s poly clinics.

Dr. Sunbaunat, who was among the first group of educated psychiatrists, makes it clear that without the effort of Edvard, things wouldn’t have been so successful.

Initially, the program was financed by Norway. Today, the national health department has taken over the responsibilities. But at the faculty in Phnom Penh, they believe that it is still very important that external professionals contribute in raising the standard.

Traumatized historyProfessor Ka Sunbaunat is one of the victims of the Khmer Rouge. He lost most of his family during the horrible years from 1975 to 1979 but luckily he survived. One of his brothers was tortured to death simply because he had eaten fallen fruit, which he had found on the ground. Like many others Sunbaunat was sent to the countryside in order to work in the rice fields under inhuman conditions.

After Cambodia was freed by Vietnam, Sunbaunat’s first thought was that revenge wouldn’t heal him. Instead he decided to become a psychiatrist in order to help other people.

He has no problems treating former Khmer Rouge supporters. During the trial against those guilty of the atrocities, Sunbaunat was responsible for the psychiatric observation of the main suspect "Duch" of the Toul Sleng prison. But personally he has no faith in the ongoing process:

"The trial won’t cure the distress of the people nor hinder that something like it will ever happen again. At worst, it will have a negative effect if people won’t find the conviction to be righteous," Sunbaunat says.

Ball and Chain and Bamboo cagesPreviously there was a great risk that mentally ill patients would be put in bamboo cages or put in ball and chain. Especially psychotic patients were mistreated.

"Only 13 years ago, I heard about a schizophrenic man, who was trampled to death by a monk who was trying to exorcize evil spirits," Sunbaunat tells.

Traditional healers hit patients or inflicted facial bruises with hot steam. Today, the offer of modern treatment is well-known in all of Cambodia, which means that families bring their sick family members to the poly clinics. The biggest poly clinic in the country is in Phnom Penh, which daily receives about 300 patients. The hospital was once built with support from the Soviet Union.

Patients and their families are waiting in cool corridors with palm leaves poking through holes in the walls where there should have been windows. A psychotic and anxious young man is held tightly by a fellow patient. Monks and pregnant women are first in line.

"Although we’re short of time and everything happens a bit fast, the accuracy of the diagnoses and treatments are good enough," Hauff says.

The amount of cases of depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder is about the same as in the West. Common issues are young psychotic men from small villages in the rural areas and depressed middle aged women from the city.

A consultation is 2 US dollars while the medicine is free. The drugs that are used have long been on the market such as lithium, which is used when a patient needs to be treated for bipolar disorder and Haldol, which is used to treat psychotic illnesses.

Psychiatry in a culture of BuddhismHauff believes that important symptoms are the same regardless of one’s culture. However, the way symptoms are construed and descriptions of such vary. Delusions can be interpreted differently and in the Buddhism culture you are most likely to believe that atrocities in a previous life are the reason you have problems in your current life; because of a violent past it is a continued post traumatic disorder.

"We find plenty of useful references from Buddhism, which we use in psychiatric knowledge acquisition and therapy. We focus on the messages of the religion; about true understanding, the right way of thinking, and about what can cause such disorders. On the other hand the idea of Buddhism, of karma, can seem passive if you believe that most of your life is already decided by faith."

Laos is nextThe training and educational program has become internationally acclaimed. The World Health Organization and the national health department in Laos currently wish to establish something like the success of Cambodia in its even poorer neighboring country of Laos. Colleagues Hauff and Sunbaunat have already started planning.

Thai PM warns Cambodia over dispute

via CAAI

Thailand's prime minister has called for a peaceful solution to a border dispute with Cambodia, but warned Thai soldiers will defend national sovereignty if attacked. The fiercest border clashes in years erupted between troops stationed along the border last week and sporadic artillery fire left at least five people dead.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajvia said in his weekly Sunday morning address to the nation, that Thailand never thought of invading anyone, but if its sovereignty is violated, they have to protect it ultimately.

Both the Thais and Cambodians have blamed each other for the fighting over a strip of disputed land, near the UN-protected 11th-century Preah Vihear temple.

Temple conflict sparks border battles

via CAAI

Sunday Feb 06, 2011

Tense ... a Cambodian soldier guards Preah Vihear temple. Photo: AFP

PHNOM PENH: Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged fire near an ancient temple on their border yesterday, hours after heavy clashes left a soldier and a civilian dead.

On Friday, a Cambodian soldier died in the skirmishes near the disputed Preah Vihear temple. A Thai soldier was captured yesterday.

A Thai villager was also killed by artillery shelling and five Thai soldiers were injured.

Advertisement: Story continues below Thailand and Cambodia accused each other of starting the fighting, the deadliest since April 2009, as the United States urged ''maximum restraint''.

The area around the 11th-century temple is claimed by both sides. Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Phnom Penh planned to complain to the United Nations about what it called the ''Thai invasion''.

Thai soldiers had fired artillery shells 18 to 20 kilometres into Cambodian territory, he said.

But Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon played down the significance of the incident, saying: ''We are negotiating now and I am sure that everything will be fine.''

A US State Department spokeswoman said: ''The United States urges both sides to exercise maximum restraint and take all necessary steps to reduce tensions and avoid further conflict.''

A Thai army official at the border said fighting broke out on Friday at Phu Makuea, near the temple. Residents of villages along both sides of the border were evacuated, officials said.

Ties between the countries have been strained since July 2008 by a series of deadly border clashes over land surrounding the temple after its UN World Heritage listing.

Thailand and Cambodia have both been talking tough on the border issue, which some observers say serves nationalist goals at home on both sides.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear itself belonged to Cambodia, although its main entrance lies in Thailand. The boundary through the surrounding grounds remains in dispute.

The Thai-Cambodia border has never been fully demarcated, partly because it is littered with landmines from decades of war in Cambodia.

Another border spat has focused on the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda, which is built in the disputed area.

Thailand demanded last Monday that Cambodia remove its flag from the pagoda, which it said was ''situated on Thai territory'' - a claim Cambodia vehemently rejects.

The fighting erupted just hours after Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya held talks with his counterpart in Cambodia.

Tension has worsened since the arrest of seven Thai nationals for illegal entry into Cambodia in late December. Five were given suspended sentences but nationalist activist Veera Somkwamkid and his secretary were sentenced to jail for spying, angering Thai nationalists.

Hindus want disputed Thai-Cambodia Hindu Shiva temple be transferred to UN control

via CAAI


Hindus have asked that landmark Preah Vihear Hindu temple complex, cause of border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia, should be turned over to United Nations (UN) control.

Notable Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that 11th century Preah Vihar was a world heritage and it was moral duty of the world to keep it preserved and intact for the coming generations.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, argued that this Lord Shiva temple was sacred to the Hindus of the world and reported damage caused by recent military crossfire could be hurtful to the devotees.

Rajan Zed pointed out that frequent clashes between Cambodia and Thailand because of long-running feud might further damage the already fragile temple. UN presence would help in protecting the sacred site, development and upkeep of the area, allowing easy access and provision of needed facilities to devotees and other visitors, bringing more economic development and investment in the region, clearing of reported area landmines and saving the military and civilian lives which were usually lost in conflicts. nown as Preah Vihear in Cambodia and Khao Phra Viharn in Thailand, this remote temple at the border between Thailand and Cambodia, which has reportedly not been clearly demarcated, has been a source of tension for generations. Preah Vihear was said to even predate Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple complex by about 100 years and its stunning setting made it finest of all the ruins left from the mighty Khmer civilization, Zed added.

Rajan Zed further said that world could not let this sacred site dedicated to Lord Shiva (situated where Preah Vihear province of northern Cambodia touched Sisaket province of eastern Thailand) be further damaged to advance political agendas of some as there appeared to be a no clear solution to settle the long-standing territorial dispute surrounding the temple, which was already a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and whose history could be traced to 9th century when the hermitage was founded. Moreover, Temple of Preah Vihear, an outstanding masterpiece of Khmer architecture mostly created by Suryavarman I and Suryavarman II, was a unique architectural complex of a series of sanctuaries and was said to be exceptional for the quality of its architecture and carved stone ornamentation. It was reportedly dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva in his manifestations as Sikharesvara and Bhadresvara. It was also said to be marking representation of sacred Mount Meru, the abode of the gods, and showing a depiction of Churning of the Ocean, a Hindu scriptural episode, Zed indicated.(ANI)

Thailand, Cambodia seek border calm

Thailand and Cambodia say said they are working to defuse border tensions

Thailand and Cambodia say said they are working to defuse border tensions

Both, Thailand and Cambodia, have blamed the other for sparking the worst violence in more than two years

 via CAAI

BANGKOK — Thailand and Cambodia said they were working to defuse border tensions a day after the neighbours agreed to end fierce fighting near a disputed temple that killed at least five people.

Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, who has faced pressure from the powerful "Yellow Shirts" at home for his handling of the issue, on Sunday said the "army and foreign ministries from both countries are working to normalise the situation".

In a sign that the situation remained strained after heavy fighting around the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, he added that incident "shows that we never fail to protect our sovereignty" on his weekly television address.

A Cambodian military commander stationed at Preah Vihear said the situation was "tense".

"Both sides are still on alert," he said, adding that the Thai and Cambodian armies had held a meeting Sunday and were working together to try to improve the situation.

The neighbours traded heavy weapons fire in an area around the Hindu temple, which is claimed by both countries, on Friday and each said the other had used mortars, rockets and artillery.

Observers say the border issue is being used to stoke nationalist sentiment at home in both Thailand and Cambodia.

Cambodia has said two of its soldiers and one civilian were killed in Friday's fighting, while Thailand said a villager on its side of the border also died.

A Thai soldier was killed in a brief resumption of hostilities on Saturday morning.

The media in both countries have suggested the toll could be much higher, however, with Thai newspapers suggesting 64 Cambodian soldiers were killed. Across the border, it was reported that at least 30 Thai troops had died.

Villages were evacuated on both sides of the frontier when the fighting erupted.

Around 8,000 people fled their homes on the Thai side alone, according to Somsak Suwansujarit, the governor of border province Sri Sa Ket, who said people had started to return to their houses on Sunday.

"The situation is improving," he added.

Both sides have blamed the other for sparking the worst violence in more than two years.

Ties between the neighbours have been strained since the temple was granted UN World Heritage status in July 2008.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear itself belonged to Cambodia, although its main entrance lies in Thailand and the 4.6-square-kilometre (1.8-square-mile) area around the temple is claimed by both sides.

Around 5,000 "Yellow Shirts", a force to be reckoned with in Thailand's colour-coded politics, gathered outside the government compound in Bangkok on Saturday calling for the prime minister's resignation over the issue.

It has been suggested that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) could move to mediate in the row and sources in the Cambodian foreign ministry have said ASEAN chair and Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa will visit the country on Monday.

But the subject of the meeting is unknown and Abhisit on Sunday dismissed ASEAN intervention as "unnecessary".

Good relations more vital than disputed land

via CAAI

By The Nation
Published on February 6, 2011

A change of attitude and a sense of responsibility is needed by all sides to cool the border crisis with Cambodia

"Let's not make this a case of one drop of honey that could destroy everything," Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said on Friday as smoke was still rising from one of the worst Thai-Cambodian border clashes in recent memory. The truth is, it has always been that way. Our bilateral ties with Phnom Penh have always been a case of a potential "drop of honey". And that will remain so unless there is a drastic change of attitude and mentality by all concerned.

The Thai saying stems from the idea that a drop of honey on a street attracts flies, which in turn draws a cat to chase them, a dog joins in chasing the cat, and so on ... Likewise, our bilateral relationship has been strewn with booby traps. The issue about management of Preah Vihear Temple will keep returning to centre stage until - or even after - there is a "conclusion". Demarcation disputes are rampant along the border. The controversy over alleged Cambodian "hideouts" or a "training camp" for fugitive red shirts has been like a dormant volcano. And the wound left by the appointment of Thaksin Shinawatra as Cambodia's economic adviser has not completely healed. In Thailand, the yellow shirts will continue to lambaste the Democrat-led government for being too "weak" toward Phnom Penh, while the red shirts will continue to accuse the same administration of giving in to the yellow shirts' hardline nationalism at the expense of bilateral relations.

This is not to say that Thailand is solely to blame for sour relations. Cambodian leader Hun Sen let himself be dragged into cut-throat Thai politics with Thaksin's appointment and constant demonising of the Abhisit administration. The situation seemed to improve when Hun Sen and Abhisit Vejjajiva started direct meetings late last year, but, as Friday's clash has confirmed, the two countries' ties remain on shaky grounds.

For neighbouring countries with solid relations, rounds of "accidental" mortar or artillery fire could be subdued by diplomacy. For Thailand and Cambodia, one assault rifle bullet could generate unpredictable repercussions. And it was not one bullet on Friday. There are casualties, burnt houses and reportedly damaged military vehicles. They provide the ingredients for something far worse than a border exchange, and there were moments when we became seriously concerned that what everyone feared was actually not far off.

There is no good war, and there is no bad peace. The border conflict has killed and injured people and disrupted way of life of the innocent along the border. Everyone involved must take a long hard look at the innocent faces at the border and themselves and decide what it is that they want. Some, of course, will still prefer "sovereignty" at all costs. Nationalists exist on both sides of the border. In Thailand, they bemoan "stolen" land. In Cambodia, they decry sour losers who have been clinging to something about which the world court ruled decades ago.

It is all right to contest "sovereignty" claims. It is not all right that people have to die or be injured in the process. Nationalists in both countries who cite "sacrifices" by their ancestors to reinforce their claims simply admit that territorial rights were decided by force in the past. If those rights must continue to be decided by force, the question is: When and how is this going to end? Using force to decide issues only means the stronger will win, but just for now. There is no "justice" or "fairness" involved, as many may think.

Thailand and Cambodia have pulled themselves back from the brink, but only barely. That "one drop of honey" is still very much there and fresh, waiting to spark even bigger trouble. It's the responsibility of all, not just both governments, to let it dry out. Everyone must try to come back to his senses. Disputed areas are an important issue, but they are not as important as neighbourly relations, a peaceful way of life at the border and whatever good friendship can bring about.

Second ceasefire after soldier dies in border dispute

via CAAI

Published Date: 06 February 2011
By Sopheng Cheang

CLASHES between Cambodian and Thai troops in a disputed border region left one soldier dead and forced thousands of civilians to flee before a new ceasefire was agreed yesterday.
The truce is the second to be called in two days.

A landmark 11th century temple, the focus of the dispute, was damaged in what has been the fiercest fighting in years, fuelled by Thai nationalist protests.

It is estimated at least four people
ADVERTISEMENThave been killed, including a soldier and civilian from each of the two nations. Each side blames the other for starting the fighting.

Tensions between the Southeast Asian neighbours have risen in recent days because of demonstrations by influential Thai nationalist groups in the capital, Bangkok. Thai nationalists have demanded the government clear Cambodians from land near the ancient Preah Vihear temple - sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists. The nationalists claim the land is actually part of Thailand.

The demonstrators - from the same group, the People's Alliance for Democracy, that in 2008 occupied the Thai prime minister's offices and Bangkok's two airports in a bid to force out two previous governments - have said they will escalate their pressure on Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The rally by the PAD - also known as the Yellow Shirts - has raised tensions in a country still recovering from political violence last year in which an estimated 90 people were killed.

While full-blown war is unlikely, nationalist passions are inflamed in both countries - with no clear way to settle the territorial row surrounding the temple, built during a time when Cambodia's Khmer empire ruled over much of Thailand.

Thai army spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd said 2nd region army Commander Lieutenant General Tawatchai Samutsakhon met Cambodian generals after yesterday's fighting to agree a ceasefire and to stop reinforcements being brought in.

The two sides also agreed that Thailand would suspend construction of a road to the disputed area, which covers less than two square miles.

"New fighting will erupt if Thai soldiers enter our territory, but there will be no fighting if they do not enter," Cambodian Major General Srey Doek said.

The latest round of fighting began on Friday on land near the temple, a UN world heritage site that technically belongs to Cambodia under a 1962 World Court ruling still disputed by the Thais.

Kasit blamed for violence, urged to quit

via CAAI

Published: 6/02/2011

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya should resign over the Thai-Cambodian border clashes, says the opposition Puea Thai Party.

Kasit Piromya.

Itthidech Kaewluang, the party's MP for Chiang Rai, said Mr Kasit should quit to show his responsibility over the deterioration of bilateral relations.

Mr Kasit directs foreign policy and should have prevented Friday's skirmishes near the Phu Ma Khua area of Si Sa Ket province, which left two people dead, said Mr Itthidech.

One Thai villager and one Cambodian soldier were killed in Friday's clashes, and several people were injured.

Mr Itthidech said Mr Kasit has proven incompetent and should be replaced.

However, the conflict must be solved through peaceful means, said Mr Itthidech, a member of the house committee on border affairs.

Mr Itthidech said the dispute escalated partly because of problems with the deployment of Thai soldiers on the border.

Bangkok Puea Thai MP Anudit Nakhontap said his party understood the military's role in defending the country. However, he said, the government should be more responsible in overseeing the welfare of villagers living near troublespots.

Jirayu Huangsap, Puea Thai deputy spokesman, warned the government to carefully consider the information it releases about clashes at the border.

He said authorities must take every precaution to ensure the information they make public is correct to prevent confusion and exacerbating the situation.

He said the army first denied reports of its soldiers being captured by Cambodian authorities during the clashes on Friday.

However, it was forced to admit later that four rangers had been detained by Cambodia.

The rangers belonged to a unit in charge of working with Cambodian soldiers to ease border tensions, and have since been released.

Mr Jirayu said Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva should start talks with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen and not let Mr Kasit handle the matter alone.

Meanwhile, the Puea Thai's censure debate preparation team will meet tomorrow to decide which MPs will target which ministries.

The debate team, headed by list MP Mingkwan Sangsuwan, has not named the cabinet members who are likely to be grilled. However, the key target will be Mr Abhisit. The debate, the date of which has not been fixed, will centre on allegations of graft, malfeasance in office and last year's political protests.

Paijit Srivorakarn, MP for Nakhon Phanom and member of the preparation team, said questionable procurement projects at the Transport Ministry, and the steep rise of palm oil prices will also be among the issues raised.

Pictures From International Border Crossing at Poy Pet (By Radio Free Asia)

Pull out the troops, bring in the surveyors

via CAAI

Published: 6/02/2011

It may never be known for certain who fired the first rounds on Friday afternoon and set off the hostilities between Thai and Cambodian troops along the border near the Preah Vihear temple that evening. Fighting flared up again yesterday morning, and before a ceasefire was agreed yesterday afternoon, at least three people were dead _ a Thai soldier, a Cambodian soldier and a Thai villager _ several soldiers were injured on both sides and four Thai Rangers were captured, but later released.

Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the fighting began when Thai soldiers fired on Cambodian troops in response to warning shots fired into the air by the Cambodians side to keep the Thais from crossing into Cambodian territory.

Army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the deadly skirmish started when Cambodia fired artillery rounds onto Thai territory. ''We had to return fire,'' said Col Sansern. Naturally we in Thailand tend to give the Thai military the benefit of the doubt and believe its version of events, but regardless of who fired first, it is the governments of both countries who are at fault for ordering their respective troops to mass at the border to protect claims to a 4.2 square kilometre tract of land surrounding an 11th-century temple. In such a situation, where all the preparations are for war, it is only a matter of time before the peace is destroyed and lives are lost.

Now rational people can only hope that the events of the last two days will serve as a call to reason rather than to war.

It's high time for the Thai government and the Cambodian government to begin the difficult but not life-threatening business of settling the territorial dispute. Then Preah Vihear can enjoy its rightful legacy as a World Heritage Site, something which will bring cultural and economic benefits to both countries.

A number of things will have to happen before this becomes a reality. First both governments should call their troops back from the border. Fortunately, a ceasefire has been arranged and hopefully it will hold. But a Thai army source has already reported that three battalions and heavy arms are being sent to reinforce the approximately 3,000 troops in the disputed area. Presumably, the same sort of build-up is taking place on the other side of the border. What can this possibly accomplish?

Prime Minister Abhisit could take the lead in providing a sane example for Prime Minister Hun Sen to follow and pull Thai troops well away from the border. Surely there is no real threat of a Cambodian invasion onto Thai soil at this time, or vice-versa. However, a mutual redeployment at the same time would probably be the best route, to allow both sides to save face.

Along with a troop pullback, both sides should immediately stop any construction in disputed areas. The Thai army reportedly is building a route and a bridge to give access to the Keo Sikha Kiri Savara pagoda and other disputed areas. At the same time, Cambodia allegedly is constructing an access road to Preah Vihear temple through land that is claimed by Thailand. All such work should be halted until a boundary agreement is reached.

Finally, the Thai-Cambodian Joint Border Committee (JBC), set up in 2000 under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two countries, should be allowed to get on with its work unimpeded by political considerations.

The MOU authorises the JBC to conduct surveys and demarcate the entire stretch of the boundary. According to Article 5 of the MOU, both sides have also agreed to refrain from undertaking any action that would change the environment of the area under the conflicting boundary claim.

Prime Minister Abhisit was right to reject the demand of the People's Alliance for Democracy to void the 2000 memorandum and the work of the JBC, but he has not been forceful in making the demarcation a priority. This is the only useful solution to the border problem, and the only way that Preah Vihear temple will be able to claim its legacy.

If, on the other hand, both countries continue to adopt a war posture, there is no telling where it might lead.

The plague of fanaticism

via CAAI

Published: 6/02/2011 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

What I write for the Sunday column usually hits me around 2am Saturday morning, while standing in some god-forsaken nightclub, starring down at the bottom of a whiskey bottle, trying to find the meaning to life. Whiskey bottles are bottomless, I tell you, but that's neither here nor there.

Friday night in a taxi (drinking and driving is unhealthy), the driver was raving about the border clash that led to one dead Cambodian soldier, one dead Thai villager, five captured Thai rangers (despite initial reports, four were captured and later released) and several people injured.

''We should destroy them,'' he moaned. ''We are bigger and stronger, we can wipe them out,'' he groaned. ''They shot at us first,'' he blasted.

His sentiments undoubtedly reflect those of many Thais, shocked and angry, and, most importantly, ready to go to war.

All of this over a stone tablet, a flag and a pagoda on 4.6 square kilometres of dirt? Of course not, that would be silly. On the contrary, the cause is something far more existential, far closer to the soul.

All of this, because of what happened when a few old men, like People's Alliance for Democracy leader Maj Gen Chamlong Srimuang, Thai Patriot Network leader Chaiwat Sinsuwong and Santi Asoke sect leader Samana Photirak and their Cambodian counterparts woke up one morning.

They woke up, looked in the mirror and were stupefied by the horrific reality of their benign existences, of the political irrelevance staring back at them. Shocked silly, they had to immediately find a justification for their existence on this Earth _ a reason for living, a motivation to breathe, a reminder that they are not just taking up space and wasting oxygen.

That reason is a stone tablet, a flag and a pagoda on 4.6 square kilometres of dirt.

Men have fought wars over some pretty stupid issues through the 7,000 years of human (ahem) civilisation. One that is most common in its absurd stupidity is a war where young men are sent to die and innocent civilians are blown to bits to serve the vanity of a few old men made insecure because they can no longer control their bowel movements and have to wear diapers. (The irony is, they soil themselves, yet they run the world. But then again, look at the world, it sort of makes sense.)

Fingers are pointing. You shot first! No, you shot first! Like juveniles quarrelling in a backyard. You started it! No, you started it! Like those bickering children in the playground. This was mine first! No, this was mine first! Like those tattletale little punks running to adults. He's lying! No, he's lying! (Yes, I know, referring to the United Nations as ''adults'' is a bad metaphor.)

The irrational, illogical and uncritical zeal for a cause, the extreme and blind obsession over a stone tablet, a flag and a pagoda on 4.6 square-kilometre of dirt _ it's not nationalism, it's fanaticism. It's stupid. Like Winston Churchill once said, ''A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.''

Is it possible that Maj Gen Chamlong, Chaiwat and Santi Asoke's Samana Photirak and their Cambodian counterparts might wake up tomorrow, look in the mirror and see other causes worth fighting for? Like poverty? Corruption? Social injustice? Plus a host of other real problems plaguing Thailand and Cambodia?

No. It's 4.6 square kilometre of dirt, and there is not even oil underneath it. That would be a reason worth sending young men to die and blowing innocent civilians to bits. Shall we then invade Cambodia to bring freedom and democracy to its people? Would you chuckle a little if Newin Chidchob pointed at Thaksin Shinawatra and screamed, ''You're corrupt!''?

Fanaticism is a continuous cycle of mounting stupidity. Two years ago, it was about an old ruin called Preah Vihear. Last year, it was about 4.6 square kilometres. Two weeks ago it was about a stone tablet on that 4.6 square kilometres. This past week it was about a flag and a pagoda on that same land. Yesterday, it was about the shooting, the deaths and injuries to soldiers and civilians on both sides.

Today, as you're reading this, more reasons are surely arising for Thais and Cambodians to kill each other. And tomorrow? Even more reasons.

What happens five years from now, if the fanaticism of those old men, who are too insecure and egotistical to just retire and tend to a garden, or actually help the country by building schools or homeless shelters, isn't checked and curtailed? Millions of innocents, both Thais and Cambodians, will suffer.

Because fanaticism is an airborne disease, foaming at the mouth, it catches on quick. Yesterday, bickering over 4.6 square kilometres may seem silly. But tomorrow, the deaths of fellow countrymen would demand that most foul, that most base and that most destructive of human impulses: vengeance, a driving force of fanaticism.

Look around the world. People aren't blowing each other up because of some thousand-year-old ancient feud. No, they blow each other up because yesterday their brother, cousin, friend, or that dude who just happen to have their same skin colour, same passport or same religion, was blown up _ and that demands what? Vengeance!

Fanaticism lies, dormant or alive, in the heart of every man. But in Thailand, we _ for the most part _ haven't gone so far as to strap C4 explosives to our behinds for greater glory, not just yet. However, there is a burgeoning, a blossoming of fanaticism. Look for clues, in both the red and the yellow camps.

A year ago, if you asked a red shirt why he marched, his answer would be for democracy, for a general election, for justice for Thaksin Shinawatra. Ask him today, and his answer would be because of the May 19 crackdown and his comrades killed on that day.

In 2006, if you asked a yellow shirt why he marched, his answer would be for the Royal Institution and to fight corruption. Ask him today, and his answer would be 4.6 square kilometres of dirt and ''they shot us first!'' And, oh yeah, ''Because Abhisit sucks!''

Two things both camps have in common. The first is the irrational, illogical and uncritical zeal for a cause, an extreme and blind obsession. The second is rich old men who have the talent for stirring speeches and the willingness to send the young against bullets (rubber or live) in order to justify their benign existence and to boost their political relevance.

And rest assured, none of them can change their minds, nor will they change the subject. Although I do hope they can prove me wrong.

Beware of fanaticism. It's a disease that has killed more than the plague. Nip it in the bud.

After the taxi driver calmed down a bit, I said, ''Sure, we can beat them in war.'' Because, heaven forbid, if I express any doubts over the might of the Thai armed forces against Cambodia, the driver might have kicked me out of his cab. Stranded on the tollway at midnight, on a journey to find the meaning of life at the bottom of a whiskey bottle _ no, we cannot have that.

So I said, ''Sure, we can beat them. But at what price? Is one life of somebody's son, brother, husband or father worth 4.6 sq km of dirt? The life of a daughter, a sister, a wife or a mother? Soldiers or civilians? Is one human life worth 4.6 sq km of dirt?

''It will be a guerrilla war. There will be terrorist tactics. Is your home worth getting blown up over 4.6 sq km of dirt? Living in fear and paranoia each and every day?''

I'm not a pacifist. There are reasons to fight, but 4.6 square kilometres of dirt is not one of them.

So at 2am in the morning, standing in some god-forsaken club, starring down at the bottom of a bottle, looking for life's meaning, what I saw instead was fanaticism and its meaninglessness.

But I also saw hope. Because, you see, the taxi driver was able to see reason, and he said he only had a sixth grade education. Surely, the rest of us could too. Surely, the Thai government and military and their Cambodian counterparts won't let the fanatics dhmanipulate the situation any further.

The question would then become, not who shot first, not who was here first, and not who this stretch of dirt belongs to. But who is willing to extend his hand first, and make peace.


Contact Voranai Vanijaka via email at

Thailand, Cambodia Reach Ceasefire Agreement After Cross Border Firing

Ron Corben
Bangkok February 05, 2011

via CAAI

Photo: Reuters
Cambodian soldiers sit at Preah Vihear temple after a brief clash with Thai troops, February 05, 2011

Thailand and Cambodia agreed to a ceasefire Saturday after renewed fighting in a disputed border region killed at least one soldier.

A tentative ceasefire appeared to be holding late Saturday after Thai and Cambodian troops exchanged artillery fire along their shared border.

Military officials from the two countries blamed each other for the outbreak of hostilities, the first in the region resulting in fatalities in a year.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn says the military has specific rules of engagement that were also communicated to Cambodia.

"We have instructed the military to respond only when attacked to specific military targets only, and the Prime Minister asked the officers in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to communicate this intention clearly to Cambodia,” Panitan said. “The Prime Minister also hopes that we can continue to work with Cambodia in achieving a peaceful solution. Only we regret that we have casualties on both sides."

Fighting broke out late Friday near the 900 year old Preah Vihear temple in a disputed area near the Thai-Cambodia border.

The fighting is the latest flare-up between the neighboring nations over the disputed land and control of the ancient Hindu temple.

Both Cambodia and Thailand have laid claim to the temple. A 1962 World Court ruling awarded it to Cambodia, which also successfully had the temple declared a World Heritage site in 2008. But the exact border near the temple has never been settled, leading to periodic skirmishes.

Tensions have risen in recent days because of demonstrations by influential Thai nationalist groups demanding Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to take a tougher stance in the border dispute.

Political observers say the clashes mark a setback in steps to promote a wider political security and community grouping within the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Both Thailand and Cambodia are ASEAN members.

ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan expressed deep concern over the conflict, calling for and end to the violence and a return to negotiations. Surin said both sides appeared open to some form of mediation by ASEAN.

Nearly 10 Thousands of Thai villagers at Thai-Cambodian border evacuated

via CAAI

BANGKOK, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- More than 5,150 villagers residing near the Phu Ma Khua military base west of Preah Vihear temple were evacuated after military clash between Thailand and Cambodia erupted Friday afternoon, Thai TV station Channel 9 reported Saturday.

Thailand's eastern Si Sa Ket province bordering Cambodia has provided temporary shelters for the evacuees.

The report said that the province will provide 30,000 baht (976 U.S. dollars) for the owners of home damaged by the artillery shelling and 50,000 baht (1,627 U.S. dollars) for the family of the dead.

Meanwhile, at Kantharalak district, another spot that one soldier was killed and the other 4 were wounded in a fresh clash early Saturday morning, about 3,605 villagers have already been evacuated. Provincial officers are providing dry food and temporary shelters to the villagers affected by Saturday morning's attacks.

Thailand and Cambodia first started artillery shelling and shooting on Friday afternoon around the disputed border areas near the Preah Vihear temple, the latest flare-up in an ancient row over the controversial land plot adjacent to the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple.

Editor: Lu Hui

Shaky truce after fresh fighting

via CAAI

Published: 6/02/2011

Thailand is cranking up pressure on Cambodia over the disputed Preah Vihear temple, even as a shaky ceasefire holds after the worst border fighting in two years claimed at least five lives.

SOLDIER FALLS: The flag-draped body of Sgt Wutcharin Chartkhamdee, who was killed in the border clashes, arrives at Wat Siriwarawat in Si Sa Ket’s Kantharalak district.

The government reached a ceasefire with Cambodia yesterday after a resumption of border clashes in the morning killed one Thai soldier, taking the Thai toll to two.

Cambodia has said two of its soldiers and one civilian were killed when fighting broke out on Friday, while Thailand said a villager on its side of the border also died.

The resumption of fighting has sent thousands of people living near the border fleeing for safety, and villagers on both sides have been evacuated.

As Cambodia yesterday released four Thai rangers seized when the clashes broke out on Friday, reports emerged that the Preah Vihear temple may have been damaged.

SCHOOL CLOSED: The roof of a school in Si Sa Ket damaged by shells allegedly fired by Cambodian troops.

Television footage showed smoke plumes rising near the temple, which according to Cambodia suffered "serious" damage in the fighting.

Both sides are now taking their case to international tribunals, which could further ratchet up tension along the border.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday the government would seek the suspension of Preah Vihear temple's listing as a Unesco World Heritage site following the flare-up.

The government would also submit a letter to the United Nations Security Council "clarifying" the border clashes.

"I'm asking Thais to support the armed forces in protecting the country's sovereignty," he said, adding that the army would never invade its neighbour.

In Bangkok, a few thousand supporters of the People's Alliance for Democracy gathered near Government House calling on the government to resign for its handling of the Cambodia issue.

Mr Abhisit said the clashes show the border issue is sensitive and any move which could exacerbate tensions should be avoided.

Unesco's World Heritage Committee is scheduled to consider the temple's world heritage listing plan, and a development plan for the surrounding area, at a June meeting in Bahrain.

The prime minister conveyed his condolences to the families of the clash victims and said Thai soldiers were simply defending the country's sovereignty after Cambodian troops opened fire on a Thai military base in the Phu Ma Khua area of Si Sa Ket on Friday.

The renewed gunfire yesterday morning killed one soldier and wounded four others. An exchange of heavy artillery shelling on Friday afternoon left one Thai villager dead and scores of troops injured.

Thai soldiers said the morning clash took place near Huay Ta Maria village when Cambodian forces advanced towards the village and opened fire.

Thai troops retaliated and fighting broke out at two nearby locations of Ban Don-aow pass and a former border patrol base near Pha Mor E-dang.

Army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the renewed fighting killed Sgt Wutcharin Chartkhamdee and left four other soldiers injured.

"We held onto our positions. When Cambodian troops advanced to occupy them, fighting was inevitable," he said.

Second Army commander Lt Thawatchai Samutsakhon led a delegation to meet Cambodia's Military Region 4 commander Lt Gen Chea Mon.

Following the three-hour talks, both sides agreed to stop firing, not to increase their forces in the disputed area, and improve coordination between unit commanders.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya briefed foreign diplomats from 16 countries, after his ministry on Friday said Cambodian troops opened fire from the Preah Vihear temple area at the Thai military, and Phum Saron village.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong has written to the United Nations to draw its attention to the "explosive situation at the border".

In a letter to UN Security Council president Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, he said Cambodian troops had no option but to retaliate in response to "flagrant aggression" by Thai troops.

Col Sansern yesterday admitted the army had reinforced troops and artillery at the border.

Meanwhile, Unesco director-general Irina Bokova expressed her deep concern at the sudden escalation of border tensions.

She called upon both sides to exercise restraint for the sake of the temple and to talk at the highest levels to defuse the tension.

Kasit, Cambodian counterpart insists good bilateral ties

via CAAI

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong Friday insisted to use the Thailand-Cambodia Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) as a key mechanism to develop good bilateral ties.

Kasit met Hor Namhong in Siem Reap Friday morning both in a four-eye meeting and the JBC meeting.

Kasit talked to his Cambodian counterpart for 20 minutes before the JBC meeting began at 8:45 am.

Hor Namhong opened the meeting by saying the JBC meetings helped the two countries improve bilateral ties very fast.

Hor Namhong said results of the JBC meetings would be used as guidelines for improving the ties of the two countries.

Lawyer says govt failed Thais held in Cambodia

EVIDENCE: Lawyer Nataporn Toprayoon checks the map that the Cambodia court rejected to consider in the case. This will be forwarded to the International Criminal Court.

via CAAI

Published: 6/02/2011

The government failed to help the two Thais convicted in Cambodia of espionage, says their lawyer.

Nataporn Toprayoon, the legal adviser for Thai Patriots Network coordinator Veera Somkwamkid and his secretary, Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, said the government's response was disappointing, as it could have helped secure the release of the pair.

Promised documents failed to arrive, with government officials declining to help because the detained Thais are affiliated to the yellow shirt People's Alliance for Democracy, which is currently protesting against the administration.

A Cambodian court on Wednesday sentenced Mr Veera and Miss Ratree to eight years and six years in jail, respectively, for espionage.

Mr Nataporn said that without government help, the pair were left to the mercy of the Cambodian court, which cited a disputed map in saying they had trespassed.

It also refused to accept documents presented in their defence.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva promised to send documents to aid their case, but they failed to arrive, he said.

"Since then the government has tried to persuade the pair to accept their guilt and ask for a royal pardon, which I think is just not right," said Mr Nataporn.

Seven Thais, including Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth, were arrested on Dec 29 on disputed land at the border with Cambodia and charged with trespass.

They were detained at Cambodia's Prey Sar prison for nearly a month.

Five of the seven, including Mr Panich, have since been freed, after the court suspended their nine-month jail terms.

The other two, Mr Veera and Miss Ratree, are now held in Prey Sar prison, vowing to fight to the end.

Mr Nataporn talked to Piyaporn Wongruang about how he intends to fight their cases.

Q: Do you think the fresh round of fighting which has broken out near the border will affect their plight?

A: If the fighting has any impact, it will probably be positive. The international community is likely to take more notice of what is going on.

Q: How are you preparing your fight?

A: We have worked on two separate tracks _ submitting an appeal to a higher court within 30 days and working on filing the case with the International Criminal Court, which we place higher hopes in.

Q: Why are you filing a case to the ICC?

A: The case is really about a territorial dispute which the countries have been unable to settle.

As the area on which those people allegedly trespassed has not yet been proved to belong to either Thailand or Cambodia, the court should not have authority over the case.

But the court has already sentenced them, so I think the Cambodian government has violated international agreements.

Jailing them as a result of a legal interpretation by the court has violated their human rights.

Q: What happened to the court to prompt such a verdict?

A: The court did not accept any evidence concerning the pair which we filed to prove their innocence, claiming it was not official.

The court based its ruling on a map of the area [that Thailand disputes], and concluded that they had trespassed on Cambodian territory. It claimed they were in a military area.

But our aerial map suggests they were arrested 200m behind the alleged trespassing point.

Q: The court also convicted them of spying.

A: The court cited a camera carried by Ms Ratree, and Mr Veera's diaries in which he mentioned a pile of weapons he had found. It even alleged that Mr Veera had disguised himself as a mushroom collector to keep an eye on the Cambodians.

We provided 27 documents ranging from border treaties to the map. But the court refused to consider them.

Q: How did the government help?

A: The government did not help at all. I produced a letter asking for documents from Mr Abhisit about a week before the court's verdict.

The prime minister told agencies to provide us with the information we sought, but none arrived.

I was very disappointed. The government did not provide any documents to help us fight in court.

If we had received some help from the government, it would have not ended as poorly as it did.

I think it is about our mindsets towards each other. I contacted some officials about this matter, and they said: "You are the yellow shirts' lawyer, we won't talk to you."

Q: Will you ask them again for help?

A: I don't know what I should expect or who to talk to any more. We are lawyers and we just wish to get our people back without tarnishing reputations and assigning guilt. I don't understand why the government does not see things the way we do. Since [Mr Veera and Ms Ratree's convictions] the government has tried to persuade the pair to accept their guilt and ask for a royal pardon, which I think is not right. It is not just.

Q: How are their spirits?

A: Mr Veera is in strong spirits. He has not bowed to pressure because he is firm on the point that he was on Thai soil. He told me that he would fight to the end, even if he has to die there. They are in Prey Sar, home to about 2,000 prisoners. Visits are hard to secure as they need government approval, though his mother has visited him a few times.

Panich admits bad planning led to detention in Cambodia

via CAAI

Published: 6/02/2011

Poor preparation is partly to blame for the arrest of seven Thais, including himself, in Cambodia in late December, admits Bangkok MP Panich Vikitsreth.

Mr Panich and six other Thais were detained at Cambodia's Prey Sar prison for nearly a month.

Five of the seven, including Mr Panich, have been freed, after a Cambodian court suspended their jail terms for trespass.

The other two _ Thai Patriots Network coordinator Veera Somkhwamkid and his secretary, Ratree Pipatanapaiboon _ were given six and eight years, respectively, in jail for espionage, an outcome Mr Panich suggests could have been avoided if he had taken more care.

After being freed, Mr Panich, a Democrat MP, visited the Thais whose concerns about border incursions by Cambodian trips prompted his trip in the first place.

At the time of his visit to the border area in Sa Kaeo, Mr Panich said he honestly believed that he was on Thai soil and he was unaware that Thai and Cambodian soldiers assume a line to divide their areas of operations there.

Mr Panich went there after receiving a complaint from Bay Pulsuk, a resident of tambon Khok Sung of Ta Phraya district, Sa Kaeo, that he could not enter his own 23-rai property because it was occupied by Cambodian soldiers.

Mr Panich said he contacted Samdin Lertbutr, a member of the Santi Asoke Buddhism sect, and asked him to take him to the area.

Mr Panich represents the constituency that includes Bung Kum district, where Santi Asoke's headquarters stands.

Mr Samdin asked Mr Panich to pick him and Tainae Mungmajon up at the Santi Asoke base.

Mr Samdin said he would first take Mr Panich to Prachin Buri.

Mr Panich reported his planned trip to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Mr Abhisit agreed with the trip and said Mr Panich should be there because it was an MP's duty and Mr Panich was also a member of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission.

When Mr Panich met Mr Samdin and Mr Tainae, Mr Samdin asked him to pick up the other Thais _ Mr Veera, Ms Ratree and Narumol Chitwaratana.

Mr Panich said he had not previously known the three and he picked them up at the Rong Klua market in Aranyaprathet district of Sa Kaeo.

Mr Samdin wanted Mr Veera to join the trip as he is knew the area. The two women were Mr Veera's aides.

When Cambodian soldiers arrested his delegation, including Kojpollathorn Chusanasevi, Mr Panich's aide, they took the Thais to a pond near their camp.

Cambodian soldiers confiscated their cameras and phones and had them wait there for hours, said Mr Panich.

Ms Ratree pulled out a small camera which had not been confiscated by the authorities and took pictures.

Ms Ratree used this camera as the Cambodian soldiers had taken their other belongings, and Thai authorities summoned there to help them were about to take the delegation back.

Mr Panich held another phone, which had also been overlooked by the Cambodians, which he used to take a picture of Mr Samdin.

Mr Panich said Ms Ratree had just happened to snap a photo at an inappropriate time, but that she only intended to do so to have a souvenir.

The delegation was taken by vehicle to Phnom Penh, a seven-hour trip.

They reached the Cambodian capital at 11pm on Dec 29, when Cambodian authorities took all their remaining belongings, including the camera in Ms Ratree's bag.

The following morning, they were taken to the Phnom Penh municipal court.

Mr Veera told the court that the small camera belonged to him but Ms Ratree told the court on a separate occasion that the camera belonged to her, as she apparently was seeking to protect Mr Veera.

The seven Thais each faced two charges of illegal immigration and illegal entry into a military compound.

By the following day, the Thais were told to put on prisoners' outfits, and Mr Veera and Ms Ratree each faced an additional charge of espionage.

Mr Panich said Cambodian authorities based the third charge against Mr Veera and Miss Ratree on the presence of the camera and the disparity in accounts about who owned it.

Mr Panich said Mr Veera had previously told him that the camera did not work.

That was why Mr Veera shouted to reporters that he had been unfairly charged, because he said he had no intention of spying.

"If Mr Veera [and Miss Ratree] had [only] faced the same charges as me, they would now be free," said Mr Panich.

"They would have been sentenced to nine months in jail, suspended.

"I sympathise with Miss Ratree. She was about to be freed along with the other five of us, but she has faith in Mr Veera and did not want to leave him," Panich said. "We signed a petition for our cases to be finalised as soon as possible but Mr Veera and Miss Ratree signed statements saying they would defend themselves on Feb 1."

The Democrat MP said that while he had told the prime minister about his trip on the day of their arrest, he had neglected to tell Thai security authorities.

Mr Veera had incorrectly assumed that Mr Panich had informed security authorities.

Mr Panich said the jail terms imposed on Mr Veera and Miss Ratree were too harsh.

"I intended to find out why a villager could not enter his own land," he said.

"I thought that if we met Cambodian soldiers at the site, we would still be able to return," Mr Panich said. "I did not expect it would turn out this way.

"Mr Veera understood that I had already spoken to authorities about the trip, clearing it advance.

"Actually I had not. I just wanted to see the villager's land," Mr Panich said.