Friday, 18 February 2011

Cambodian band aims to revive music almost eliminated by Khmer Rouge

A Cambodian woman has formed a rock band with an Australian musician to bring Cambodian to the world after years of being silenced by the Khmer Rouge.

The Cambodian Space Project performs in Phnom Penh.
Jared Ferrie

via CAAI

By Jared Ferrie, Contributor / February 17, 2011

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Srey Thy has come a long way from her village in one of Cambodia’s poorest provinces to performing throughout the world. And her music has had a similarly arduous journey.

Ms. Thy sings with the Cambodian Space Project, a band recapturing a musical legacy nearly wiped out by the Khmer Rouge. After taking power in 1975, the regime targeted intellectuals and artists, and many musicians were executed or died in labor camps.

But Cambodians like Thy’s mother, who came of age in the 1960s, never forgot the music of that era, a fusion of Western garage rock and Khmer vocals. “I always sang because I heard my mom singing every day,” Thy recalls.

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At the age of 19, Thy moved to the capital to pursue a singing career in karaoke clubs. But the lines between the karaoke scene and the sex trade are blurred, and Thy had “a lot of bad experiences.”

She eventually quit, and was working as a waitress when she met Australian musician Julien Paulson. He was hooked on Khmer rock and looking around for a collaborator.

The band played its first gig in December 2009 and performed in Hong Kong just a few months later. “When I came back after five days in Hong Kong, I felt like I had just woken up from a dream,” says Thy, recalling her first trip out of Cambodia.

The band has since traveled to Australia and France, and they are booked to play in the “South by Southwest” music festival in Austin, Texas, this March.

Human rights: Uganda, Yemen, Thai-Cambodian border

via CAAI

Human rights − 17-02-2011 - 16:52
Plenary sessions

Discrimination against homosexuals in Uganda, the persecution of juvenile offenders in Yemen and border clashes between Thailand and Cambodia were all the subject of urgent debates and resolutions at the European Parliament on Thursday.

Thai-Cambodian border

Parliament also adopted a resolution condemning the border clashes between the armed forces of Thailand and Cambodia and urging both parties to reduce tension, resume dialogue and accept the assistance offered by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), currently chaired by Indonesia.

The temple of Preah Vihear, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, has been the centre of recurring boundary disputes between the two countries. MEPs welcome UNESCO's decision to send a special envoy to the area and the fact that Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to participate in an urgent ASEAN meeting.

At a press conference today, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced his intention to offer a permanent cease-fire with Thailand at the ASEAN meeting on 22 February.

Young Singer Is Happy To See Her Fans Happy (Cambodia news in khmer)

Statement of United Nations Security Council on Dispute Between Cambodia and Thailand

Cambodia To Seek Asean as Witness to Ceasefire

Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Thursday, 17 February 2011

via CAAI

Photo: AP
Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, shakes hands with Thai Deputy Prime Minister Trairong Suwankiri, left, in the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh.

“I and other villagers are very happy if the ceasefire really happens."

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday Cambodia will seek a ceasefire to be signed with Thailand when Asean ministers meet in Jakarta next week.

Following a meeting with Thai Deputy Prime Minister Trairong Suwankiri on Thursday, Hun Sen told reporters that Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong will seek a ceasefire to be signed with Asean foreign ministers as witnesses.

The move comes following a UN Security Council session on Monday, when the international body urged a “permanent ceasefire” between the two countries in the wake of deadly border clashes earlier this month. The Security Council also said Asean, which is led this year by Indonesia, could be a mediator.

Hun Sen has categorized the fighting as “a small war” between the two countries.

“If the Asean chairman signs onto a ceasefire agreement with Cambodian and Thai foreign ministers, it is good,” Hun Sen said. “But it is in the negotiation process.”

Thailand has said it prefers a bilateral resolution to an ongoing border dispute, where it claims ownership of a small stretch of land near Preah Vihear temple. Cambodia also claims the land.

Hun Sen said a ceasefire would include four main points: that both sides agree to a lasting end to fighting; that they both retain current troop levels on the border; that border commanders continue open talks; and that Asean monitor the ceasefire.

Hun Sen said he did not expect Thailand to agree to the last point, in which case Cambodia will seek Asean “peacekeepers” on the Cambodian side of the border “to observe and ensure the ceasefire.”

Hope of a ceasefire was welcomed by soldiers and residents near the border Thursday.

“I and other villagers are very happy if the ceasefire really happens,” said Prak Phy, a village chief in Preah Vihear province’s Chaom Ksan district. “Villagers who fled the fighting will go back home, meet their family members and continue their daily business, because the farming season will come soon.”

Companies Asked ‘To Curb’ Critical Websites

Pich Samnang, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Thursday, 17 February 2011

via CAAI
Photo: AFP
Cambodians surf the Internet at a coffee shop in Phnom Penh.

“Although it contains some anti-government opinions, the site is a source of a great deal of Cambodia-related information.”

Internet service providers have received an e-mail from an official at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications reminding them to “take action” against several anti-government websites.

The e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by VOA Khmer on Thursday, is a follow-up to a Feb. 10 meeting between the ministry and service provider representatives.

According to meeting minutes posted on the ministry website, Telecom Minister So Khun told the representatives that while the government does not have a policy requiring that websites be blocked, he “asked all operators to help curb some websites affecting Khmer morality and tradition and the government through the Internet.”

The e-mail, which was electronically signed by Sieng Sithy, deputy director of the ministry’s policy regulation, addresses service providers WiCam, Telesurf and Hello.

“We found that you are not yet taken an action, so please kindly take immediate
action,” he wrote, referencing the Feb. 10 meeting. “Here below [are the] websites.”

The e-mail then lists eight separate websites, belonging to the anti-government group KI Media, its mirror sites, and other websites traditionally critical of the current government. The e-mail also contains an attached document that lists the ISP providers in the country that have “blocked” or “unblocked” the requested sites.

“Again and again [sic], In case of not well cooperation is your own responsibility,” Sieng Sithy wrote.

Sieng Sithy also offers other service providers “my appreciation to you for your cooperation with MPTC.”

Contacted Thursday, Sieng Sithy declined to comment on the e-mail.

The minister, So Khun, told VOA Khmer his ministry has issued no orders to block sites.

“Maybe our technical staff who saw inappropriate content on those websites wrote to the ISPs themselves,” he said. “It’s a matter for the technical staff. Who knows?”

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith could not be reached for comment. However, he told the Phnom Penh Post on Thursday that an e-mail did not represent official government policy and he asked that the Telecom Ministry clarify the e-mail.

Cambodian Internet users have been complaining for weeks that they have been unable to access KI Media and other blogs, sometimes their own.

The government has strongly denied any policy or order to service providers requiring them to block any sites. In recent media statements, many service providers have likewise denied blocking websites.

Sok Channda, chief executive of the company that operates Angkornet and Mekongnet, told the Phnom Penh Post on Wednesday she had received the email from the ministry but not an official letter.

Nevertheless, Internet users trying to connect via various providers to KI Media and other sites have either found failure messages or been re-directed to other sites. Officials have blamed this on technical problems.

Critics say that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party controls much of the broadcast and print media in the country. Opposition editors and journalists have in recent years been jailed under defamation laws and many opposition-leaning newspapers have closed.

In December, the Phnom Penh court sentenced World Food Program staffer Seng Kunnaka to six months in jail on incitement charges, after he distributed a small number of copies of a print out from the KI Media website.

For the most part, though, the government has allowed free rein for Internet users. The number of Cambodians online has meanwhile begun to climb. An estimated 200,000 Cambodians are now online.

Heng Sokunthy, an Internet user and regular visitor to the KI Media site, said she was “strongly” affected by its recent failure to load.

“Although it contains some anti-government opinions, the site is a source of a great deal of Cambodia-related information,” she said.

The Telecom Ministry e-mail also comes as rights groups have begun to notice a decline in Internet freedoms in the country.

On Wednesday, Licadho issued a statement calling government censorship of websites “a significant milestone in the march toward a more oppressive media environment.”

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights said Cambodia’s freedom of expression is “in crisis” and called on the government to stop attempting to block websites.

“The blockage will make people more stressful and tense and unhappy with the government, as it does not understand their will,” CCHR President Ou Virak told VOA Khmer Thursday, citing recent events in Tunisia and Egypt as examples. “I see it as a danger to the government in the future.”

Khmer Rouge Leaders To Remain in Detention

Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Thursday, 17 February 2011

via CAAI

Photo: AP

The tribunal “did not respect the law.”

The Trial Chamber of the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday ruled to hold in detention three leaders of the regime currently awaiting an atrocity crimes trial.

In 17 days of hearings, prosecution successfully argued that pre-trial release of Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Thirith would create a flight risk and endanger their trials, for crimes including genocide.

The fourth leader in detention, Ieng Sary, did not file for release.

Trial Chamber judge Nil Nonn said in the decision the three would continue to be held “to ensure the presence of the accused persons at the trial.”

Defense lawyers have argued their clients have been held beyond the mandated limits of pre-trial detention under the rules of the UN-backed court.

But Nil Nonn said they should remain in detention, especially considering the “serious crimes” with which they are charged.

Sar Savan, a laywer for Khieu Samphan, who was the nominal head of the regime, said the tribunal “did not respect the law.”

Mixed Outlooks Following Cambodian Trip to UN

Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Thursday, 17 February 2011

via CAAI

Photo: AP

“I think Asean should change its character, I hope that Asean will change its policies.”

Analysts and political observers gave mixed reactions to Cambodia’s address to the UN Security Council on Monday, with some disappointed the international body had not done enough and others saying it gave proper attention to border fighting with Thailand this month.

The foreign ministers of Cambodia and Thailand each appeared before the Security Council in New York on Monday, in an effort to resolve a longstanding border dispute that culminated in violent clashes in early February.

After the session, the Security Council advised maximum restraint, urged both sides to agree to a permanent ceasefire and encouraged the venue of Asean for mediation.

Chheang Vannarith, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said the Security Council failed to fully resolved the dispute.

“What Cambodia hoped was that the UN, especially the UN Security Council, would form a working group as international observers, or a peacekeeping force to solve the conflict between both countries by creating a buffer zone,” he told VOA Khmer by phone.

Cambodia also would liked to have seen the Security Council request the International Court of Justice to legally address the issue, he said.

The court issued an international decision in 1962 that handed Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia, dismissing Thai claims to the 11th-Century site. Cambodian officials say the decision can also settle a dispute over territory near the temple.

“The UN Security Council can summon a representative from [the court] to testify to the 1962 court verdict,” Chheang Vannarith said. “But I think the UNSC did not do this, which is regretful.”

However, for Chhaya Hang, executive director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy, the Security Council’s position displayed the recognition that the clashes were not serious enough to send in peacekeepers and that the dispute could be solved regionally.

“The UN demand is not too extreme from what we expected,” he said. The Security Council wants to see the dispute solved regionally and created “an important role for Asean,” he told VOA Khmer by phone.

The Security Council also likely views the problem as related to Thai internal politics, which could quiet down soon, and did not want to spend the kind of money it did during the Untac period, he said.

Still other observes said the border situation remains volatile, with thousands of troops still entrenched along the frontier, despite the Security Council’s call for a ceasefire.

Kem Sokha, president of the minority opposition Human Rights Party, said Monday’s Security Council session was a success for neither side.

“I say there was no result at all,” he said. “Both sides still have a conflict. An no one prevailed over the other.”

The Security Council statement displayed “light pressure,” he said in a phone interview. “But when there are further problems, then they’ll raise to another level.”

Cambodia should continue to push for a multi-lateral solution, he said. At the same time, Cambodian authorities should continue to encourage their soldiers “to protect sovereignty.”

Yim Sovann, a lawmaker and spokesman for the main opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said the situation was “serious” and required the attention of the UN and Asean.

Thai soldiers had violated Cambodia’s territory and broken international law in the recent clashes, he said.

“So any party that violates a Unesco resolution, violates laws or maps and the verdict of the [international court], violates the Paris Peace accords, that party must take responsibility,” he said.

Thailand has said it did not enter Cambodian territory in recent fighting.

Yim Sovann too called on the government to ensure troop strength was enough to protect the border. At the same time, he said, Cambodia can capitalize on the international attention to solve outstanding border issues with Vietnam.

Vietnam and Cambodia are planning to end border demarcation measures in 2012, following years of efforts, but critics of recent efforts, especially among the opposition, say Cambodia is ceding land to Vietnam.

For the Thai dispute, Cambodia now says it will seek more mediation from Asean at a regional foreign ministers meeting in Jakarta next week. That will include inviting Asean monitors to any talks over the border with Thailand.

“With a third party, there will be an official record,” government spokesman Phay Siphan said, which will help when agreements are reached over the border, such as those that are now awaiting approval by Thai parliament after talks in 2000.

However, skepticism remains over how effective Asean will be in finding a border solution. Critics say the regional forum lacks the muscle to resolve the issues and that it has in the past failed to do so. Instead, Asean leaders generally take a position of non-interference.

Chheang Vannarith said this approach no longer fits the regional context.

“I think Asean should change its character,” he said. “I hope that Asean will change its policies.”

‘No Mission’ Yet to Preah Vihear Temple: Unesco

Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Thursday, 17 February 2011

via CAAI

Photo: AP

“And obviously no mission could take place to the site until hostility has ceased between the two parties.”

Unesco has no plans to visit the site of Preah Vihear temple until military tension along the border abates, a representative for the organization said.

Cambodia requested a Unesco team investigate alleged damage to the temple from Thai artillery fire in clashes earlier this month. And while Unesco has agreed to send a team in principle, it is waiting for more calm.

“There is no mission foreseen to the temple site at this point,” said Sue Williams, a spokeswoman for Unesco. “And obviously no mission could take place to the site until hostility has ceased between the two parties.”

Thailand has said it objects to the Unesco mission while military tensions remain.

Williams told VOA Khmer that any visit would have to be done with “full collaboration” from both countries.

Unesco Secretary-General Irina Bokova said in a statement this week she would send an envoy for talks with both Cambodia and Thailand.

Preah Vihear temple’s listing as a Unesco World Heritage site in July 2008 is at the heart of the current military build-up along the border. The listing sparked celebrations in Cambodia and protests in Thailand and remains contentious.

Border Dispute Seen Unifying Myriad Groups

Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Thursday, 17 February 2011

via CAAI

Photo: AP
Cambodia students hold the Cambodian national flags as they attend the Independence Day celebration at the Independence Monument in the capital Phnom Penh.

“It is apparent that the voice of nationalism is very strong, because it comes from the heart of the people, and it is the policy of the government.”

Analysts say the northern border dispute has unified Cambodians under a potentially dangerous banner of nationalism, following recent clashes with Thailand.

Fighting earlier this month has drawn condemnation from ruling party members, the opposition, rights groups and others, who believe Thai forces crossed into Cambodia during fighting earlier this month.

“The language of the government has been parallel to the language of the people and the public,” Chea Vannath, an independent political analyst told VOA Khmer. “It is apparent that the voice of nationalism is very strong, because it comes from the heart of the people, and it is the policy of the government.”

Unity among the different groups has meant Cambodia has been able to protest Thailand’s actions, she said.

Cambodians have been gripped by the “sovereignty issue,” said Long Monghay, a researcher for the Asian Human Righs Commission, especially because in recent history Cambodia has lost must of its land to both its western and eastern neighbors.

While the issue allows people to stand together, in can be dangerous in extremity, he said, pointing to the successful exploitation of similar sentiments by the Khmer Rouge as it rose to power in the 1970s.

“Under the Khmer Rouge regime, very strong nationalism was too much, and that was not good,” he said. “One can find ways to resolve [the issue] peacefully and avoid stirring up too much nationalism.”

Cambodia’s leaders have made sovereignty a more important issue than any other, dampening other issues and political conflicts by declaring a Thai “invasion.” Thai officials have denied crossing into Cambodian territory and have blamed the shooting on instigation from the Cambodian side.

Even the Sam Rainsy Party, whose leader is in exile to avoid a criminal sentence over criticism of Cambodia’s border with Vietnam, has issued statements echoing ruling government condemnation of Thailand.

Much of the national unity has solidified in recent weeks, following heavy border fighting with Thailand between Feb. 4 and Feb. 7, which killed five Cambodian soldiers and two civilians and drove thousands from their border homes.

“Generally, when our country faces danger from the outside, we always unite to protest against foreign invasion,” Sam Rainsy told VOA Khmer from France. “For internal affairs between Khmer and Khmer, we should leave these aside in an emergency.”

Kem Sokha, who heads the minority opposition Human Rights Party, also said party politics should be put aside “when Thailand invades Cambodia.”

“All must show national integrity in order not to let foreigners look down on us,” he said. “When we split, the foreigners looking down on us can easily control us.”

“Khmers united survive, while Khmers divided die,” Cheam Yiep, a ruling Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker said, quoting a Cambodian maxim. “Don’t trust foreigners, don’t trust the sky, and don’t trust the stars.”

Weighing the cost of conservation

Photo supplied
The remains of an illegal structure burn in an area of forest in Koh Kong province

via CAAI

Thursday, 17 February 2011 22:32 Steve Finch and James O’Toole

Koh Kong province

The helicopter circled over the Cardamom Mountains, gliding past the rivers and greenery in what is one of Cambodia’s best protected forests.

From the air, staff from the conservation NGO Wildlife Alliance surveyed the landscape, searching for any encroachments within the forest and noting the geographic coordinates with GPS units.

With these coordinates in hand, WA staffers joined Forestry Administration rangers and military police on November 12, 2009, on an expedition in Koh Kong province’s Thma Bang district.

There, in the district’s Chi Phat commune, they encountered nine families who had built huts and cleared tracts within the forest to plant rice.

The teams issued warnings to the families, according to an internal WA report, telling them to dismantle their huts and abandon the fields within seven days. Five other unoccupied structures at the site were dismantled and burned to the ground.

Since arriving in Koh Kong in the early 2000s, Wildlife Alliance has been an aggressive force for forest protection, developing alternative livelihood programmes for villagers while at the same time working with law enforcement officials to crack down on environmental crimes.

Poaching and logging have long been problems in the area and continue to be issues for the ranger teams, as are illegal land sales by local officials.

Yet while businessmen and corrupt officials have done much to drive deforestation in the area, villagers who engage in slash-and-burn farming or otherwise exploit the environment for survival are also targeted, their property seized or their homes dismantled if they are found to be in violation of forestry laws.

Episodes like the one in Thma Bang are indicative of the challenges WA has faced as it works to protect the Cardamoms while engaging with local communities, amid questions about who bears responsibility for the effort and whether all residents are benefiting from the conservation push.

“Southwest Cambodia would be a lot more deforested without Wildlife Alliance,” said David Emmett, regional director of Conservation International.

“The key issue that Wildlife Alliance and all conservation NGOs need to remember is understanding that an area that right now is blanket forest as far as the eye can see – this is Cambodia’s territory,” he added. “It’s not ours.”

Enforcement efforts

In 2002, much of the Southern Cardamoms was “like a war zone”, Wildlife Alliance CEO Suwanna Gauntlett said.

Dozens of man-made forest fires were being set every day, while poached elephants, bears and other animals were fuelling a robust illegal wildlife trade.

Nine years later, this trade has been brought under control – Gauntlett said just one elephant had been killed in the area in the past five years – and dozens of families that formerly engaged in slash-and-burn farming have come out of the forest to join WA-sponsored projects.

In 2007, Wildlife Alliance began an ecotourism project in Chi Phat commune that has been growing consistently and in 2009 provided 156 families with skills training and modest incomes. A similar ecotourism community is planned for nearby Trapaing Roung, with 122 of the 503 families in the commune attached to the project.

Near the Chi Phat ecotourism community is a village and community agriculture project known as Sovanna Baitong that houses roughly 190 families.

For villagers who are not involved in these projects, however, the WA presence has not always been positive.

Wildlife Alliance has foreign advisers and local staff who work at stations in Koh Kong alongside Forestry Administration rangers and military police.

Gauntlett emphasised that it is the FA rangers and military police who make determinations on seizures of property and the dismantling of homes.

“We don’t do law enforcement,” she said.

“It’s the government doing it, with our technical support.”

This support, she said, includes mapping and photographing structures built illegally on forest land as well as assistance in building legal cases and following up with the courts.

A foreigner who formerly served as a WA adviser said via email, however, that WA staff typically took a lead role in directing the enforcement teams and dismantling structures.

“We always were very aggressive,” the man said, a sentiment echoed by other former WA staff in background interviews.

“Suwanna puts the pressure on advisers. She already [said] to all of us, ‘If you can’t dismantle this house, you cannot continue to work for us.’”

In addition to dismantling illegal structures, enforcement teams also intercept poachers and confiscate illicit wildlife catches.

Emmett said that this work had greatly reduced illegal forest clearance and hunting, but that there had been incidents in which enforcement teams with WA advisers had confiscated the wares of villagers, such as tree resin, that the villagers are legally permitted to collect.

“There have been occasions where confiscations have occurred and when, when it’s been investigated further … it’s actually been found that the communities are allowed to do it according to their traditional user rights as defined in the Forestry Law,” he said.

“If we try to implement the law either without fully understanding it or without understanding local context and traditional rights, in the long term we can lose the goodwill of the very people whose livelihoods rely on sustaining the forests that we are trying to protect.”

The dismantling of illegal structures is typically a less ad hoc affair, with enforcement teams warning residents seven days in advance before returning to carry out the action.

The process has at times been contentious, however.

In one January 2009 incident, WA staff set off from Koh Kong’s Sre Ambel town with Forestry Administration rangers for a new village that had cropped up recently in the forest.

From January to February, the teams dismantled more than 40 huts in the area and burned a number of them.

At one point, according to an internal WA report, a senior Forestry Administration official in the province happened upon the teams and commended their work.

The official returned in a panic several hours later, however, reporting that several villagers whose homes had been burned had complained to local rights group Adhoc.

The official “ordered us to burn everything, not [leaving] any trace of the village”, a Wildlife Alliance staffer wrote in the report.

Gauntlett said enforcement was an integral part of the conservation effort, calling land encroachment “the biggest driver of deforestation” in the area.

“You wouldn’t see somebody coming and building something in your national park or in Yellowstone Park,” she said. The majority of the structures destroyed, she added, are not actually homes.

“These are temporary structures, they’re not anything definitive, and these structures are put in place to monitor illegal crops, they’re put there to grab land – it’s specifically for illegal activities,” she said.

Others disputed this characterisation of the huts, however, including a Cambodian former staff member of WA who said the structures are in most cases primary residences.

“It’s a house for living – ask them. They live there, they sleep there,” he said.

The foreign ex-WA staffer compared the organisation’s presence in the area to that of an occupying army, saying that while the group was “good sometimes for nature protection”, he was uncomfortable with his own role in dismantling and burning homes.

“I don’t know if we really violate human rights, but for sure, sending complete families on roads, burning their houses with their belongings isn’t really fair,” he said.

“The few things they have, for us is nothing, but for them it’s everything.”

Out of the forest

WA is aware of the issue and has reached out to families living in the forest.

Built on either side of an unsealed track off National Road 48, Sovanna Baitong looks like any other rural village in Cambodia.

People live in simple wooden huts raised off the ground, and business owners run kiosks selling mobile phone cards and cold drinks.

WA established Sovanna Baitong village in 2004 as a site where families were promised a 1.5-hectare plot of land – and a land title in five years – along with tools and seeds to grow their own crops with help from trained agricultural technicians.

The aim was to offer people a profitable alternative to slash-and-burn farming, a place where families could grow food to feed themselves and sell at local markets. In addition, WA established a school for the families that live in the village.

“The positive is 370 children are going to school every day, all these families have access to healthcare. We’re meeting most of the [UN] Millennium [Development] Goals,” Gauntlett said.

But numerous problems have plagued the site, known within Wildlife Alliance as the Community Agriculture Development Project, since day one.

“It’s a very nice idea, but it’s not done so well,” said the Cambodian employee, who was responsible for recruiting villagers to the project.

The CADP inhabitants came voluntarily and signed contracts agreeing to work when they arrived.

While they have benefited from having been united in a community with easier access to education and healthcare, many say they feel trapped in a state of indentured servitude, holding out for the promised land titles and unable to return to their old way of life.

“Everyone is hopeless because we have no right to own our own land even though we have grown fruit and vegetables on that land,” one man said.

“Villagers want to own land with land titles because we traded land with [WA] and we can’t go back to where we lived.”

An internal report documenting a visit in December 2007 by an official of the Asian Development Bank, a project donor, notes “how much control the CADP had over the daily activities of the CADP families”.

The report details how families are rationed rice each month, while purchases of farm equipment and fertilisers must be approved by project staff, “thus creating dependency while reducing sustainability”.

Outsiders are also subject to control in the form of restricted access to the project, the former Cambodian WA employee said. During a recent visit to Sovanna Baitong, reporters speaking with villagers outside their homes were accosted by two Wildlife Alliance employees on motorbikes and asked to report to the main project office prior to being escorted off the site.

Gauntlett said a degree of control was necessary, particularly in the early stages of the project, to keep it up and running.

“These are the pains of growing up,” she said. “It’s not an enclave.”

Some families have enjoyed success growing crops including cucumbers, maize and jackfruit, though others said they had struggled within an environment they described as coercive and unsympathetic.

Although the CADP has supplied ploughing machinery, the Cambodian employee said foreign project manager Gi-lad Chen often refused to allow villagers to use these resources. Many thus had to plough the land with hand tools, leading to further discontent amid already low levels of production.

Some villagers described a daily routine in which they were threatened with expulsion from their land or loss of rice rations if they did not work the plots they had been allocated. The Cambodian employee said Chen even resorted to trying to stop inhabitants from playing cards in an effort to get them to work harder.

“Now they are stricter than before in cultivating land for growing vegetables,” said one 41-year-old woman living in Sovanna Baitong.

“If someone goes away for a week, they will take their land back, so how can villagers make money?”

Frustrations in the village reached a climax in 2007, with protests breaking out against the CADP management and Chen in particular.

Former WA employees and villagers gave different reasons behind the unrest, but most cited mismanagement, overwork and coercive practices initiated by Chen.

A number of villagers compared the perceived forced labour in Sovanna Baitong to what they had endured during the rule of Pol Pot.

“I experienced three years and eight months of the Khmer Rouge regime, and I think this is similar because they ordered us to work like we are in a totalitarian state,” said one 47-year-old male inhabitant. “It is really miserable to live there.”

WA denied repeated requests to interview Chen about conditions at CADP, though WA chief communications officer John Maloy said the “short-lived” protests were tied more to issues of land ownership, as property prices climbed and villagers sought to take advantage.

“There were individuals at Sovanna Baitong village who at the time were clamouring for direct ownership of their land in the hope of selling it,” he said.

Gauntlett subsequently intervened directly with villagers “to build a community consensus” and work through problems related to “new and unfamiliar” farming methods recently introduced in the village, including an irrigation system.

Within two weeks, these problems were resolved, Maloy added, with the village then holding a Buddhist ceremony to draw a line under the discontent.

But some villagers say their dissatisfaction has never dissipated, with many complaining that they still have not received the land titles they were promised for staying in the village five years. Seven years after the project began, none have received them.

Gauntlett said that villagers will not receive land titles until the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries legally converts the area into a social land concession, a process she described as “very slow” and in the hands of the government.

Officials at the MAFF said this week that they did not know the status of the proposal.

WA figures show that average monthly incomes per household climbed from US$94 per month at the end of 2009 to $100 per month from February to April last year, though some villagers complain of low productivity and incomes barely above subsistence level.

Gauntlett said the “majority” of families were making at least $40 per month, though she acknowledged that some had struggled.

“There is a percentage of families that are not very keen on agriculture,” she said. “You can bring the cow to water, but you can’t drink for it.”

Having grown and supplied seedlings to an adjacent sugar cane plantation owned by ruling party Senator Ly Yong Phat, some villagers said they had resorted to working on the plantation for 10,000 riel per day.

Others leave the site to work as fishermen or motorbike taxi drivers.

The Cambodian former staff member said the families he recruited would consistently complain to him about the coercive conditions.

“The people in the village? Of course they are not happy,” he said, adding that word had spread around Koh Kong about the CADP as he made his pitch to residents outside the project.

“Why come to this communist village? I don’t want to go back to the Pol Pot regime,” villagers often responded, he said.

The future of the project remains unclear.

Maloy said it had made “excellent progress”, adding that plans to expand the CADP were contingent on further funding.

Wildlife Alliance also hopes to continue developing its ecotourism sites, and plans are in the works to establish a “carbon sink” in the forest under the UN’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation programme.

In the meantime, Gauntlett said WA remains committed to stopping the “circle of destruction” in the Southern Cardamoms. Engaging with local residents is a part of the strategy, though she acknowledged that not all of these people would be on board with the effort.

“Sometimes you can’t help everybody,” she said.


Garment workers back on job

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Garment workers protest against poor working conditions and low wages at a factory in Phnom Penh during a nationwide strike in September.

via CAAI

Thursday, 17 February 2011 20:29 Mom Kunthear

Nearly 200 garment workers from Kandal province will return to work on Monday after they were fired or suspended following September’s garment strikes, although 142 workers ousted after the strikes remain unemployed, union leaders said today.

A total of 161 garment workers from the Goldfame Enterprise factory in Sa’ang district were among more than 3,300 dismissed in the province following a massive strike in which thousands of workers across the country demanded higher wages.

Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said today that the workers’ return was negotiated at a meeting with the company and its buyers on Tuesday.

“We told them about the difficulty of the workers after they were fired and the prime minister’s intervention,” he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen in September called for a “win-win solution” to the dispute, appealing to the courts to drop complaints filed against striking workers by factory owners and asking that workers be allowed to return to their jobs.

“I think the government should have the power to push the company to accept the workers,” said Ath Thorn, adding that he would send a letter to Hun Sen on behalf of 142 workers from 14 factories who remained unemployed.

Chea Thida, a union representative at Goldfame Enterprise, said today that she was happy to return to work.

“I already prepared myself to return back to work and then I will have money to pay for rent and food,” she said, but added that she is not afraid to protest again if necessary.

A representative of Goldfame Enterprise factory who declined to be named said today that he did not know whether the workers would have the same salaries when they returned.

A meeting between union and factory representatives to negotiate worker benefits will be held in Phnom Penh on Monday.

Underage sex trial concludes

Photo by: Pha Lina
Suspected British paedophile Matthew John Harland arrives at Phnom Penh Municipal Court today.

via CAAI

Thursday, 17 February 2011 19:22 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

Phnom Penh Municipal Court concluded its trial today against a British national accused of purchasing sex from two underage girls.

The 38-year-old suspect, Matthew John Harland, was arrested last May in a Meanchey district guesthouse on suspicion of purchasing child prostitution and committing indecent acts in 2006.

Presiding judge Kor Vandy said a verdict would be announced on March 10.

“We hope that after this final hearing, we will find the truth and issue the right verdict for him,” he said.

Keo Thea, director of the municipal Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Office in the Ministry of Interior, said the suspect was arrested after the two girls’ families filed complaints against him through the NGO Actions Pour Les Enfants. He also accused the suspect of producing hundreds of photos of child pornography in the country.

Nuon Phanith, a lawyer provided by APLE to represent the victims, said the suspect paid them between US$50 and $100 for sexual acts.

“According to two victims’ testimonies, they both had sex with him at least three times in 2006,” he said.

Harland maintained his innocence at today’s trial, saying: “I did not have sex with [the girls].

“I have known them from along the riverfront in Phnom Penh, where they sold books,” he said. “Later, we kept in touch and rented a tuk-tuk and went to swim at a water park with several other girls in Phnom Penh.”

In December, the municipal court sought further investigation in the case, citing a lack of evidence necessary to convict.

Under the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation, Harland could face between seven and 15 years in prison if convicted of purchasing child prostitution, and up to three years if found guilty of committing indecent acts.

KI-Media ban confusion

via CAAI

Thursday, 17 February 2011 19:51 Thomas Miller

The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications should clarify its request that 10 internet service providers block access to several anti-government websites, because the government has no such policy, Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said today.

Khieu Kanharith said he had not been aware of the request – an email sent to 10 ISPs from an official at MPTC, obtained by The Post – but that it did not represent government policy.

“An email is not an official letter,” he said, adding that he could still access KI-Media, which he views “every two or three hours”.

“It surprised me that some ISP organisers accepted the email as an official letter,” Khieu Kanharith said.

Sieng Sithy, deputy director of the Directorate of Telecommunications Policy Regulation at the MPTC, wrote an email to Ezecom, Metfone, Citylink, Digi, AngkorNet, WiCam, TC, Camnet, Online and Camintel thanking them for “cooperation” in blocking access to several websites, including KI-Media, Khmerization and a site featuring the art of political cartoonist Sacrava.

Sieng Sithy referenced a meeting on February 10 with Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun, during which So Khun asked for “cooperation” in curbing access to several unnamed sites that affect “Khmer morality and tradition and the government”, according to official minutes obtained by The Post.

Khieu Kanharith said MPTC should clarify the issue.

“If So Khun signed, then it is the position of the Ministry of Posts, but not the government, because the Ministry of Information … we have not asked any ISPs to block any website,” he said.

Khieu Kanharith said MPTC should “at least give the reason why they asked or ordered the ISPs to block [the sites]”.

So Khun stated on Wednesday that MPTC had no policy of blocking access to the websites, but could not be reached for comment today.

Internet users have reported in the past several days that they could not access KI-Media through ISPs Ezecom, Metfone, Online and WiCam.

On Monday, WiCam users attempting to access KI-Media said they saw an error message, signed by “WiCam Tech Support”, saying the site had been “blocked as ordered” by MPTC.

Kim Saroeun, operations manager for Online, said today his company was not blocking the sites in question.

“There is no order from my top management to block access to any websites you mentioned below. [W]e will continue to investigate and if there is anything [that] come[s] up [I] will gladly let you know,” he said by email.

Ezecom CEO Paul Blanche-Horgan has said he has received “no directive from the government to do anything” and that it was merely a “technical problem”.

Sok Channda, CEO of Cambodia Data Communications, which operates MekongNet and AngkorNet, said on Wednesday she had received the email but did not block any sites because it was not an official letter.

Users of MekongNet have confirmed they could access the sites in question.

KR release bids dismissed

Photo by: ECCC Pool
Nuon Chea, former Khmer Rouge Brother No 2, appears at the tribunal for a hearing last month.

via CAAI

Thursday, 17 February 2011 18:23 Sebastian Strangio

Judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal have rejected defence applications seeking the immediate release of three former regime leaders, saying the continued detention of the accused is necessary to “ensure their presence” at the court’s historic second trial later this year.

In applications filed to the hybrid court’s Trial Chamber last month, lawyers for former Khmer Rouge Brother No 2 Nuon Chea, head of state Khieu Samphan and social action minister Ieng Thirith argued that the court had not met the legal requirements to continue holding their clients in detention ahead of their trial.

Nuon Chea and Ieng Thirith’s defence teams claimed that judges in the Pre-Trial Chamber failed to issue a reasoned decision for rejecting the lawyers’ appeal against their client’s indictment, as they are required to do under the court’s Internal Rules.

Khieu Samphan’s lawyers, meanwhile, charged that the maximum allowable period of pre-trial detention provided for under court rules had expired.

“The Trial Chamber found that the delay in issuing reasoning for the continued detention resulted in a breach of the Accused Persons’ rights, but that the nature of the remedy in consequence of this breach may be assessed at the end of the trial,” the court said in a statement today.

“Furthermore, the Trial Chamber found that continued detention is necessary to ensure the presence of the Accused Persons at trial.”

The applications followed a January 13 decision by the PTC ordering the accused to remain in pretrial detention pending their trial.

The Trial Chamber conducted a hearing related to the applications on January 31.

In its decision, the chamber found that the delay in issuing reasoning for the continued detention indeed resulted in a breach of the three accused’s rights, but that the issue of how to compensate for this breach should be assessed “at the end of the trial”.

Judges also argued that Khieu Samphan’s appeal had been based on a “misreading” of the relevant rules, arguing that limits to provisional detention had not been exceeded in his case.

Furthermore, the decision stated that the continued detention of the trio was necessary to ensure their presence at their upcoming trial and to prevent them from “exerting pressure on witnesses or victims or destroying evidence”.

The three are set to face trial within the next six months, court officials have said, along with former Khmer Rouge head of state Ieng Sary.

Hun Sen seeks ceasefire

via CAAI

Thursday, 17 February 2011 19:09 Cheang Sokha

Prime Minister Hun Sen said today that Cambodia would call on Thailand to sign a permanent ceasefire under the auspices of ASEAN when the bloc’s foreign ministers gather in Jakarta for a meeting next week.

Speaking at a rare press conference at the Peace Palace, the premier said Cambodia would make four requests at the meeting, including an additional demand that ASEAN observers be deployed to monitor the ceasefire.

“These are the points that Cambodia [will] propose, and [we are] drafting this proposal before sending it to the chairman of ASEAN,” Hun Sen said.

“This time, it will clearly show who dares to sign and who dares not to sign.”

The meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, follows skirmishes between Cambodia and Thailand in areas close to Preah Vihear temple, which left at least 10 dead and dozens injured on both sides.

Phnom Penh and Bangkok have accused each other of triggering the clashes, just the latest in a sporadic series of fire fights that have occurred on the border since July 2008, when UNESCO inscribed Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site.

Hun Sen said the Jakarta meeting would show whether Thailand, which steadfastly opposes multilateral talks to resolve the issue, was truly willing to bring an end to the simmering
border dispute.

“I predict in advance that Thai party will not accept the fourth point,” he said, referring to the proposal for the deployment of ASEAN observers in the disputed area.

“However, I would like to say in advance that if Thailand disagrees to have observers at the site, then Cambodia will welcome forces from ASEAN into Cambodian territory to monitor the Cambodian forces.”

He said the country would welcome military, police or civilian authorities from any of ASEAN’s member states.

On Monday, the United Nations Security Council called on the two sides to “display maximum restraint” and avoid any action that may aggravate the situation, urging them to pursue a resolution at the bilateral or regional level.

The council rejected a Cambodian request for UN peacekeepers to be sent to monitor the ceasefire.

Hun Sen said today that Cambodia was also preparing to write to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, requesting that it explain a 1962 verdict that handed Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia.

Still in custody

The prime minister also dismissed suggestions that two jailed Yellow Shirt activists from Thailand – including high-profile nationalist figure Veera Somkwamkid – might be eligible for royal pardons.

The pair were part of a group of seven Thais arrested in Banteay Meanchey province in December after venturing into a border area to “investigate” the demarcation process.

Though the other five were released on suspended sentences, the case stoked nationalist sentiment in Thailand ahead of this month’s clashes.

The Bangkok Post reported today that the Thailand Patriots Network, an offshoot of the nationalist Yellow Shirt movement, was lobbying the government to request a pardon from King Norodom Sihamoni.

Hun Sen said Veera, who has been handed an eight-year jail term on February 1, cannot be forgiven and must serve his full sentence at Prey Sar prison.

His secretary has also been sentenced to six years prison.

“Don’t come to persuade me to ask for a royal pardon, I will not do that and [the case] will be enforced under the law this time,” Hun Sen said.

Thai FM secretary dismisses Cambodia's 4-point proposal

via CAAI

BANGKOK, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- Phnom Penh's asking Bangkok to sign a ceasefire agreement misses the point since it was Cambodian troops who initiated all the clashes, the secretary to Thai Foreign Minister told Xinhua on Thursday.

Chavanont Intarakomalyasut, Secretary to Thai Foreign Minister, responded to the four-point agreement proposed by Phnom Penh on Thursday.

In the proposal, Phnom Penh asks Bangkok to sign a ceasefire agreement, not to move armed forces until the resolution on demarcation of the disputed border area, to have open talks between two countries' army commanders, to ask representatives from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to observe the disputed area as to ensure the permanent ceasefire.

Chavanont dismissed Phnom Penh's proposal, saying that Thailand has never caused a problem, but Camboida.

"Thailand has always welcomed for peace talk. Our stance is the same: ceasefire and talk," said the secretary.

Responding to the third point of Phnom Penh's proposal, Chavanont said observation from the ASEAN was not necessary.

"Bilateral mechanism is enough to solve the conflict," he insisted.

Bilateral negotiation has long been the position of Bangkok, while third party intervention is Phnom Penh's position.

Cambodia and Thailand have had border conflict just a week after Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as the World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008.

The conflict is due to Thai claim of the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the temple, resulting in a military build-up along the border, and periodic clashes between Cambodian and Thai soldiers have resulted in the deaths of troops on both sides.

The latest clashes on Feb. 4-7, with a barrage of artillery shells unleashed on both sides of the border, had claimed the lives of soldiers and civilians on both sides and also caused tens of thousands of the two countries' villagers near the disputed areas fleeing for safe shelters.

The United Nations Security Council on Monday urged Cambodia and Thailand to display maximum restraint and to establish a permanent ceasefire. It also expressed support for the active efforts of ASEAN in the matter and encouraged the parties to continue to cooperate with the organization.

Editor: Xiong Tong

Khmer Rouge suspects told to stay in Cambodian jail

Ieng Thirith has been described as the "First Lady" of the Khmer Rouge

Former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea was arrested in 2007

via CAAI

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court said on Thursday it had rejected a request to release three top Khmer Rouge leaders from custody ahead of their genocide trial.

Judges said the continued detention of "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, former head of state Khieu Samphan and ex-social affairs minister Ieng Thirith was necessary to prevent them from fleeing.

They face charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and related crimes under Cambodian laws in connection with the deaths of up to two million people between 1975 and 1979 from starvation, overwork and execution.

"The Trial Chamber rejects the applications for release," a statement from the court said, adding that the three "shall remain in detention until the Chamber's judgement is handed down".

Defence lawyers, who can appeal the decision, argued that there was no legal basis to keep their elderly clients locked up at a public hearing in January.

The three suspects made a rare joint appearance in court last month during which Nuon Chea suffered a dizzy spell and had to leave early -- underscoring fears that not all the defendants, aged 78 to 85, will live to see a verdict.

A fourth accused, Ieng Sary, the regime's former foreign minister and Ieng Thirith's husband, is facing similar charges but did not seek release.

His lawyers recently requested half-day trial sessions, claiming Ieng Sary was too ill to spend full days in court.

All four defendants have been detained since they were arrested in 2007.

The trial, the tribunal's second, is due to start in the first half of 2011 and is expected to be a lengthy and complex one with all four disputing the charges against them.

Led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Marxist Khmer Rouge emptied cities in the late 1970s in a bid to create an agrarian utopia.

Only one senior member of the feared regime has been brought to justice so far.

Former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, was convicted in July for war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the deaths of around 15,000 men, women and children.

The court -- which does not have the power to impose the death penalty -- handed Duch a 30-year jail term but he could walk free in 19 years given time already served.

Both Duch, 68, and the prosecution have appealed against the sentence.

Hearings for those appeals are scheduled to take place in the last week of March.

Truce between Thailand and Cambodia Called by UN Security Council

via CAAI

February 17, 2011 The United Nations (UN) Security Council called Thailand and Cambodia to ceasefire and begin talks that could end the border Hindu temple-related dispute.

The call was issued after the Security Council held a closed-doors meeting with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and representatives from Thailand and Cambodia.

The call was made by Brazilian Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, this month’s president of the UN Security Council. The council’s president said that both sides should refrain from taking further actions that could worsen the situation.

“The members of the Security Council called on the two sides to display maximum restraint and avoid any action that may aggravate the situation. The members of the Security Council further urged the parties to establish a permanent ceasefire and to implement it fully and resolve the situation peacefully and through effective dialogue,” said the ambassador.

The conflict between the two countries is related to the ancient Preah Vihear temple on the border, which is located on a Cambodian cliff, but has the most accessible entrance on Thailand’s land. The dispute began this month and has already brought the death of five people.

Border clashes have, according to the ASEAN, killed both civilians and members of the military. The association further added that each country accuses the other of firing first.

Army: Border post attacked overnight - (Thai is good in term of lie to the world)

via CAAI

Published: 16/02/2011
Cambodian soldiers attacked a Thai outpost at Phu Ma Khua in the disputed border area several times overnight, but were repulsed, army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said on Wednesday.

Col Sansern said there were no Thai casualties.

The Cambodian attack began about 8pm, when they threw hand grenades into the Thai position.

About 9pm, Cambodian soldiers tried to break through the fence around the post, but were repulsed by Thai soldiers throwing hand grenades.

Cambodian soldiers probed the Thai position again about 10pm with more hand grenades, and the Thais retaliated in kind.

About 2am on Wednesday, Cambodian forces renewed the attack, this time directing machinegun fire, mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades at the Thai position. The Thai troops returned fire and pinned down the attackers, he said.

Cambodia attacked again, unsuccessfully, between 3.50am and 4am.

Sporadic exchanges of fire continued until 5.25am on Wednesday.

There were no casualties on the Thai side, which held on to the position, Col Sansern said.

The army spokesman said the attacks showed Cambodia were paying no attention to the United Nations Security Council's call for a permanent ceasefire.

The Cambodian troops' intention had clearly been to take the Thai position, he said.

Two Thais to request royal pardon from Cambodian king: Legal advisor

via CAAI

BANGKOK, Feb 17 -- Two Thai nationals jailed in Cambodia--Veera Somkwamkid, a key activist of a nationalist movement, and his secretary Ratree Pipattanapaiboon--have decided not to appeal their sentence to a Cambodian court, but will ask the Thai government to seek a royal pardon from the Cambodian king, according to their legal adviser.

Nattaporn Toprayoon, a legal adviser appointed by the Thai Patriots Network, told reporters that he has received a request from the families of Mr Veera, network coordinator, and Ms Ratree, to drop a plan to file an appeal and submit a request seeking an intervention from international organisations in the case.

He said their families were worried about their condition in the Cambodian prison and wanted them back to Thailand as soon as possible.

Mr Nattaporn said the legal process to help the two Thais did not go smoothly as it did not receive good cooperation from the Cambodian authorities.

The border clashes between Thailand and Cambodia at Si Sa Ket province between Feb 4-7 has worsened the situation, he said, adding that communication with Cambodian officials was very difficult.

The Cambodian court on Feb 1 ruled that the two were guilty of espionage, illegal entry and trespassing in a military zone. They were sentenced to an eight-year jail term and a 1.8 million riel (US$450) fine for Mr Veera and a six-year jail term and a 1.2 million riel (US$300) fine for Ms Ratree.

An appeal could be filed within 30 days.

The pair were among the seven Thais, including Democrat member of parliament for Bangkok Panich Vikitsreth, who were arrested Dec 29 by the Cambodian authorities for illegal entry in Banteay Meanchey province.

Five returned to Thailand after the Cambodian court on Jan 21 ruled them guilty of illegal entry and intentionally trespassing into Cambodian territory. They were sentenced to nine-month suspended jail terms and fines of one million riel (US$250) each.

People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) spokesman Panthep Puapongpan said the decision not to appeal showed that the government ignored their promise to help Mr Veera and Ms Ratree and let them fend for themselves in the Khmer prison.

‘Yellow Shirt’ activists from the PAD have encamped at Rajdamnoen Nok Avenue since Jan 25 with three demands--that Thailand withdraws from the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, revoke three memorandums of understanding signed by the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC), and eject Cambodian soldiers and villagers in border areas the group claims belong to Thailand.

Meanwhile, China's Xinhua news agency quoted Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen as saying that there will be no royal pardon for Mr Veera.

".. don't come to persuade me to ask King Norodom Sihamoni for royal pardon. It's impossible at this time.. comply with the law properly," the premier said, adding that the two must serve "at least two-thirds of their jail terms before being considered for royal amnesty."

In a related development, Thai Broadcast Journalists Association chairman Wisuth Komwatcharapong has discussed with the PAD their proposal to mediate talks between the Yellow Shirts and the government on Thai-Cambodian border dispute.

Mr Panthep told reporters after meeting that PAD agreed to join the special televised programme to inform the public with journalists asking questions on condition that the Yellow Shirts and the government would have three hours airtime each and the programme would not be on the same day.

Mr Wisuth said he would carry the PAD proposal for consideration before informing the government. (MCOT online news)

(Good to see these two yellow shirt to serve full term in jail without the royal pardon... their time in jail is for the lost of innocent Cambodia/Thai lifes during the clashed on the 4-5-6)