Saturday, 19 February 2011

At the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting In Jakarta: “All of us, we will be under daylight – We will no longer be in the dark,”Samdech Hun Sen

via CAAI

Phnom Penh, February 19, 2011, AKP— On 14 February 2011, “members of the [United Nation] Security Council urge the parties to establish a permanent ceasefire and to implement it fully.” On 17 February, in the morning, Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia announced that at the 22 February ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Jakarta, Cambodia will propose “a permanent ceasefire” to be signed by Cambodia and Thailand and countersigned by ASEAN members other than Cambodia and Thailand or by the Chairman of ASEAN. On the same day at 05:25 PM, the Bangkok Post Online reported that Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said “It is still too soon to talk about signing a ceasefire agreement with Cambodia.”

Whether we will have a ceasefire or not in Jakarta remains to be seen. ASEAN as a whole will know the reasons behind the outcome of the meeting. “All of us, we will be under daylight; we will no longer be in the dark,” said Samdech Hun Sen, inferring that ASEAN members will become a certified third party to the negotiations between Cambodia and Thailand. This is unavoidable.

Samdech Hun Sen has put a mark on his personae as a pacifist, a peace lover, a peace seeker, and a peace maker by stressing the fourth point of Cambodia’s proposal about how to do to guarantee an effective and permanent ceasefire by asking ASEAN members other than Cambodia and Thailand to dispatch ASEAN personnel whether civilian or in uniform to go to the border areas between Cambodia and Thailand to supervise and oversee the implementation of the ceasefire, and in case of rejection by Thailand, Cambodia will invite ASEAN members unilaterally to dispatch observers and station on Cambodian soil, civilian or in uniform, and Cambodia will be very pleased and grateful even if only one member responds favorably to the Cambodian government call.

As Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen had said many times before, Cambodians are not the aggressors therefore Cambodians are not afraid of a third party.

by Prof. Pen Ngoeun ( contributor)

Prof. Pen Ngoeun is a senior advisor and member of the Academic Committee at Puthisastra University in Phnom Penh.

(The comments are solely the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Royal Government of Cambodia.)

Ministry of Public Security delegation visits Cambodia

via CAAI

February, 19 2011

PHNOM PENH — A high-ranking delegation from the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security (MPS) led by Minister General Le Hong Anh is on a two-day visit to Cambodia which ends today.

The delegation was received by Sar Kheng, deputy prime minister and minister of Interior of Cambodia.

After informing each other of the socio-economic situation of their country, the two ministers signed a co-operation plan for 2011, which aims to strengthen effective measures to combat crime and ensure social order and security as well as support each other in training staff and using technical equipment.

Addressing the signing ceremony, Anh said that co-operative ties between Viet Nam's MPS and Cambodia's relevant agencies had made important progress, which contributed greatly to the political and socio-economic development of both countries.

He also said he hoped the co-operation plan for 2011 would be effectively carried out, contributing to the national construction and development process of each country.

Speaking highly of the outcomes in relations between the two public security forces, Sar Kheng expressed his belief in the successes of bilateral co-operation in the future between the nations.

During the afternoon of the same day, the Vietnamese delegation paid a courtesy visit to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. —VNS

via CAAI

BANGKOK, Feb 19 -- Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva admitted that Thai Cambodian border tension has affected legal proceedings to help two Thais jailed in Cambodia while affirming that the government is still exploring ways to help free them.

The Cambodian court on Feb 1 ruled that Veera Somkwamkid, Thai Patriots Network coordinator, and his secretary Ratree Pipattanapaiboon 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.

Mr Abhisit said the government has to study options to help them and that as far as he knows, the families of Veera and Ratree have not yet submitted a request to seek a royal pardon from the Cambodian King. The premier said he had told their two families to think carefully before making a decision whether to appeal or request a royal pardon. The border tensions had also affected the case, he added.

Asked whether the leaders of the two nations could hold talks to speed up help for Veera and Ratree, Mr Abhisit said he would try, but the situation should be evaluated carefully as the political situation in Thailand and Cambodia was also affecting the case. He also urged the Thai Patriots Network to think twice before making decisions on movement, as it may have effect on Veera and Ratree. He said the government would do its best to help but steps must be taken with caution and good timing and not affect ties at the national level.

China's Xinhua news agency quoted Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen as saying that there would be no royal pardon for Mr Veera. "Don't come to persuade me to ask King Norodom Sihamoni for royal pardons. It is impossible at this time," said the Cambodian premier. He added, "Complying with the law properly, the two must serve at least two-thirds of their jail terms before being considered for royal amnesty."

Meanwhie, Mr Abhisit also denied reports that ASEAN was asked to send forces to prevent more border clashes between Thailand and Cambodia. He said Thailand reaffirmed its commitment to resolving any pending boundary issues peacefully through existing bilateral mechanisms.

The prime minister added that he was unaware Cambodia might take the disputed border case before the International Court of Justice for clarification on its 1962 ruling. The Court then ruled that the 11th century Preah Vihear temple belonged to Phnom Penh, but both countries have since been in dispute over a 1.8-square-mile (4.6-square-kilometre) tract of land near the temple. (MCOT online news)

More setbacks for freedom of expression

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(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - London, February 15, 2011 - As the Cambodian government increases its crackdown on freedom of speech in the country, ARTICLE 19 and the Cambodia Center for Human Rights (CCHR) are releasing a joint statement highlighting the latest freedom of expression setbacks affecting the country.

On the occasion of the official country visit by Surya Prasad Subedi, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, both organisations are calling for an investigation into the independence of the courts and the systematic use of criminal legislation to silence voices critical of the government and the ruling party. Both organisations also urge the Cambodian government to comply with its international obligations to promote and protect the right to freedom of expression.

"Through restrictive legislations and courts, the Cambodian authorities are curtailing people's right to speak openly, share opinions, and protest peacefully. The space for freedom of speech is increasingly shrinking which is why the international community needs to increase its monitoring of the situation," said Dr Agn├Ęs Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director.

ARTICLE 19 and CCHR outline a number of key measures undertaken by the government to undermine freedom of expression in the country. The analysis identifies the courts as one of the primary tools of oppression, with criminal charges levelled against parliamentarians, journalists and human rights defenders who speak out in criticism of the government and the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP).

In the last few months, criminal cases brought against human rights defenders and citizens in response to the expression of opinions critical of the government indicate how laws are being used to silence dissent. In January, human rights defender Sam Chankea was found guilty of defamation under the new Penal Code for comments he made regarding a firm which is involved in a long standing land dispute with local residents. The firm is owned by the wife of the Minister for Industry, Mines and Energy.

Recent and forthcoming legislation are clear signs that the rule of law is waning in Cambodia and that the government is ruling by law to protect the interests of a small political and economic elite at the expense of the right to freedom of expression of all people and the freedom of those who exercise that right to speak out in criticism of the government, the ruling party and their allies.

The new Penal Code, which came into force in December 2010, contains a number of excessive restrictions on freedom of expression, while two forthcoming laws - the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations (the "NGO Law") and the Law on Trade Unions ("Union Law") - will make it increasingly difficult for community groups, NGOs and unions to gather, thereby severely restricting their freedom and independence. Although the government has verbally agreed to review the Draft NGO Law based on recommendations from local civil society groups, there is no guarantee that the proposed changes would be reflected in the final legislation.

Click here to download ARTICLE 19 and CCHR's joint statement

ASEAN's moment to prove it can settle disputes decisively

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Cambodian soldiers at the Preah Vihear temple. The standoff between Thailand and Cambodia is a litmus test of ASEAN's ability to resolve disputes between its members. REUTERS

by Mahdev Mohan and Lan Shiow Tsai 05:56 AM Feb 19, 2011

A feud over an ancient Hindu temple situated along the Thai-Cambodian border may just prove to be a litmus test for Indonesia's chairmanship of ASEAN and the regional body's ability to act decisively to maintain peace and stability in the region.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Preah Vihear Temple and the surrounding areas witnessed gunfire and bloodshed on both sides this month as Khmer and Thai military forces came to blows after decades of relative peace along the border.

After emergency meetings last week, the United Nations Security Council has refrained from sending UN peace-keeping forces to Preah Vihear. Instead, the council has chosen to place the responsibility of settling the dispute squarely upon ASEAN's shoulders.

ASEAN should rise to the challenge and demonstrate it can peacefully and conclusively settle disputes in its own backyard. ASEAN's much-criticised reluctance in the past to respond effectively to state-sponsored human rights violations within Myanmar should not detract from the fact that it is well equipped to settle inter-state disputes. Especially if Indonesia were to drive settlement negotiations.

Under the ASEAN Charter, ASEAN chairman Marty Natalegawa of Indonesia can and should continue to provide good offices, conciliation or mediation in order to resolve the dispute. He should negotiate a cease-fire to quell tensions, emphasising that the peaceful resolution of border disputes is in the common interest of all ASEAN states.

Strong Indonesian leadership is particularly important in this case since ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan, a former Thai Foreign Minister, would not be seen as a neutral negotiator.

Going further, ASEAN could, with Thailand and Cambodia's consent, convene a High Council pursuant to the 1976 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation.

Comprising a representative from each of the 10 ASEAN member states, the High Council could take cognizance of the dispute as one that is likely to disturb regional peace and harmony. It could also make recommendations on how to solve the dispute, including by establishing a committee of inquiry to look into it.

Cambodia's allegations that Thailand deployed cluster munitions during the recent clashes make it incumbent upon ASEAN to conduct such an inquiry. Even though neither Cambodia nor Thailand is party to the newly-inked Convention on Cluster Munitions which prohibits the use of such weapons, an ASEAN inquiry would send a message to the international community that it expects member states to adhere to international law, as provided in the 1976 treaty and its charter.

In the years leading up to its projected transformation into an integrated and interdependent economic community by 2015, ASEAN should not miss any opportunity to resolve tensions and enhance cooperation between member states. The Preah Vihear dispute is such an opportunity, the peaceful resolution of which would gain Indonesia the respect and confidence it desperately needs to table other regional economic, security and human rights initiatives this year to bring ASEAN closer together.

Some call on Thailand and Cambodia to submit their dispute to an international court or arbitral tribunal. But a 1962 decision by the International Court of Justice at the Hague which awarded sovereignty over the Preah Vihear Temple to Cambodia on the basis of legal principles alone did not prevent the current dispute. After all, international law is only as strong as the abiding faith of states in respecting it. That faith is shaken when domestic politics are allowed to stir up age-old ethnic and nationalist tensions between neighbours.

To encourage Thailand and Cambodia to respect international law and the economic imperative to maintain peace and stability in the region, Mr Natalegawa should capitalise on the benefits of collaborative decision-making. He should lobby the other eight member states at the coming ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting on Feb 22 to persuade these two countries to reach an agreement.

Failing this, the ministers should seek to convene the High Council to inquire into the conflict and explore settlement options that are attuned to historic sensitivities and designed to ease tensions and deter future clashes and atrocities.

Given that many disputes between ASEAN member states are currently mediated through ad hoc bilateral mechanisms, the collective resolution of the protracted Thai-Cambodian conflict will bolster ASEAN's capacity to solve disputes and demonstrate the growing maturity of key institutions within the body.

It is high time that ASEAN leaders, power-brokers and negotiators prove their mettle and restore Preah Vihear, which means "sacred shrine" in Sanskrit, to its former glory as a symbol of peace and learning in the region.

Mahdev Mohan is Assistant Professor of Law at the Singapore Management University and Associate Fellow with the Singapore Institute of International Affairs. Lan Shiow Tsai is Policy and Governance Associate, Access to Justice Asia LLP.

Resolving border conflicts takes wisdom

via CAAI

Published: 19/02/2011 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

The clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops were inevitable. The deaths and injuries shared by the two sides is sad news as they occurred at the wish of the rulers of the two sides while ordinary people did not want them to happen, noted Virabongsa Ramangkura writing for Matichon.

The use of force to settle conflicts is out of fashion these days for most countries except the US, which has appointed itself the world's policeman under the United Nations banner to use force to settle conflicts around the world in order to protect its interests. The US can do this as it is the only superpower left in the world.

Mr Virabongsa, a well-known economist and former deputy prime minister, noted that to conduct international politics for whatever reason, the rulers should think in the long term about how to end conflicts and about how the international community will view any incidents.

Mr Virabongsa advised both sides of the border conflict to look at the long-term interests of their countries and peoples. They must take into account historical facts, international law, being members of United Nations and Asean. In the eyes of the global community, Thailand and Cambodia are very small in terms of economic and military power.

Mr Virabongsa then outlined three main problems concerning the present conflict.

1. Thailand demarcated the area around Preah Vihear temple after the World Court decided in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia. Thanat Khoman, who was foreign minister at the time, reserved the right to raise the issue again if there was any new data. However, a long time has passed since then and Thailand has not brought up the issue in the World Court again.

It is Cambodia that would like to revive the case. The Thai side does not want the UN Security Council to intervene in the dispute.

Even if the UNSC decides to revive the case, the issue must be sent to the World Court to rule again in more detail what it means when it says Preah Vihear belongs to Cambodia according to the map drawn up by the French colonial ruler. Thailand must consider whether to allow the case to be reopened as it is not certain it will gain any advantage.

What we should consider is not winning against Cambodia in a war as the Cambodian army is not as strong as the Thai army. What we should consider is how the international community will view the conflict and whether Thailand is the protagonist or the bad guy.

Mr Virabongsa noted that our ancestors taught us how the Thai people could win against the ancient Khmer empire and keep power in the Chao Phraya basin. This was because the ruling Thai elite knew how to accommodate various competing interests. Eventually the Khmer natives who tilled the land along the Chao Phraya basin were assimilated as Thai and many Chinese who migrated to Thailand also were eventually assimilated.

What is most important as a nation is that Thailand could survive outside powers' hegemony by bending with the wind in dealing with China, Britain, France, Japan and the US, and may in the future have to deal with China again.

Thai and Cambodian rulers come and go but the people on both sides have to deal with each other, especially on the Cambodian side where the people are poor and want to work and earn a living along the border and in Thailand.

2. Mr Virabongsa noted that Thailand and the French colonial rulers erected 73 border posts in 1909, from Chong Mae Sa-ngao in Si Sa Ket province to Baan Lek, Khlong Yai, in Trat. Sometimes the Khmer Rouge moved the border posts inside Cambodian territory, sometimes Thai capitalists moved the border posts inside Thai territory so they could fell trees. The facts have yet to be ascertained.

The border demarcation can be implemented if neither side is greedy and specialists can easily do their job as long as politicians on both sides do not use this issue to stir up political fervour for their own gain.

Mr Virabongsa advised the Thai media not to whip up nationalistic fever so that the issue could be resolved amicably.

He cited an example of Thailand and Malaysia exchanging land along their border. A Chinese temple site was transferred to Thailand and a mosque site was given to Malaysia. The exchange was possible because the media did not cover the event and the people on both sides were satisfied.

In the modern world, border demarcation is not a big issue if we do not make it so. Trade and economics are more important issues. Peace and stability are more important. Mr Virabongsa pointed to the history of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew, who wanted to stay within the Federation of Malaysia, but Malaysian statesman Tunku Abdul Rahman was far-sighted and expelled Singapore to establish its own state. For the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, the peace of the newly established Malaysian federation was more important than gaining more territory. He had Thai blood as his mother was Thai. Then and now, nobody has blamed him for being responsible for Malaysia losing the territory of Singapore island.

The rally cry of a certain mob "not to lose an inch of territory" can be interpreted as bitter feelings of being subjugated by a superior force like the colonial powers of the past. Mr Virabongsa advised that such feelings are of no use in this day and age when the world is now borderless under globalisation. Why not adapt to the tide and derive benefits from it?

For the near- and long-term future, Thailand has Malaysia, Burma, Laos and Cambodia as neighbours. Further afield are Indonesia, India, Vietnam and China. All these countries have fertile land. If we live in peace with our neighbours, the importance attached to national border demarcation imposed by colonial powers will become less and less important.

Europe and the US over 200 years ago have also suffered from nationalistic disputes until there was industrialisation, the League of Nations, the United Nations and flourishing trade. Then both small and large countries began to live in peace and prosper together.

3. The overlapping continental shelf previously posed no problem because the technology to extract natural resources from the sea was not advanced and petroleum, natural gas and seafood were abundant and inexpensive.

In those days, the colonial powers decreed that each country could claim exclusive rights over the sea for a distance of three nautical miles, which was the distance a cannonball could be fired. Further than that, it was international waters. At the time, practically all countries accepted this proposal even though it would benefit the colonial powers the most.

Later, when the continental shelf was extended to 200 nautical miles for exclusive exploited territory, the problem of the overlapping continental shelf occurred. As long as Thailand and Cambodia cannot settle on overlapping seabed areas, they cannot exploit the encompassing natural resources.

Thailand and Malaysia were wise in agreeing not to demarcate the continental shelf between the two countries. They designated this a "joint development area" and cooperated in extracting petroleum and natural gas and dividing the resources.

Why cannot Thailand and Cambodia do the same? Leave continental shelf demarcation alone and jointly develop natural resources in the overlapping area, advised Mr Virabongsa.

Returning to the border clashes, Mr Virabongsa noted that regardless of who ignited them, or whether both sides are guilty, it is inevitable that the media in both countries will be used to rouse nationalistic fervour. Whether that happens depends on the people themselves. They must consume news with wisdom, otherwise we, the people, will force the hand of our political and military leaders and leave them no choice but to go with a tide that does not bode well for the country in the long term.

Mr Virabongsa concluded by reminding readers that life is sacred, whether Thai or Cambodian. We must not be led astray.

Abhisit launches a diplomatic offensive

The United Nations Security Council resolution that Thailand and Cambodia instigate a permanent ceasefire and return to the negotiating table provided an opportunity for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to launch a diplomatic offensive, noted a Post Today writer.

First, Mr Abhisit instructed Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya to convince Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong to change his attitude and agree to talks during the Asean foreign ministers meeting in Jakarta next Tuesday.

On this issue, Mr Abhisit informed the cabinet that Thailand and Asean would try to persuade Cambodia to negotiate under the existing frameworks, including the memorandum of understanding signed in 2000 on dealing with the border demarcation, the Joint Border Committee and the Thai-Cambodian General Border Committee.

Second, Mr Abhisit instructed Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suvit Khunkitti to travel to Paris to talk with Unesco's World Heritage Committee to convince the members to postpone taking up the issue of the management of Preah Vihear, which is scheduled to be held in June in Bahrain, until both countries reach a demarcation resolution.Mr Abhisit urged parliament to speed up the consideration of three Joint Border Committee resolutions to conform with the constitution's Section 190 to show Thailand's sincerity in carrying out agreements reached by the committee.

Mr Abhisit also approved a trade initiative with Cambodia by having Deputy Prime Minister Trairong Suwannakhiri and Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot preside over a 175-booth trade exhibition in Phnom Penh on Thursday. Mr Abhisit agreed to let Mr Trairong hold talks with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen during the visit.

Negotiate toward success, not stalemate

via CAAI

Published: 19/02/2011 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

The saga over the Temple of Preah Vihear continues to drag on, seemingly without an end in sight. Blood has been spilled and lives lost on both sides of the border, with the United Nations Security Council now calling for a "permanent ceasefire".

The Preah Vihear Temple, awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice on June 15, 1962.

Yet Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva "has rejected Cambodia's proposal for the two countries to sign a ceasefire agreement", because "it was too early to talk about such a move".

The Security Council further asked that the parties negotiate an end to their dispute, but the current imbroglio is further complicated by opposing views on the form negotiations should take. Thailand insists that any talks be strictly bilateral, although allowing for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations "facilitation", but rejects Cambodia's desire for third-party mediation or active involvement by other countries or any "regional framework".

But what is the objective of the negotiations?

Presumably it is "the demarcation of land boundary" between Thailand and Cambodia, for which the Joint Boundary Commission was established in 2000. Indeed, Thailand has been strenuously urging the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation not to proceed with its listing of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site until the border there has been demarcated.

But, like the proverbial elephant in the room, what no one seems able to mention is that no amount of negotiation, however it might be structured, will ever result in an agreed upon demarcation of the border in the area of Preah Vihear.

The reason is quite straight-forward: each country has an extremely good argument for why the so-called 4.6-square kilometre disputed area is theirs, and political and emotional considerations on both sides of the border make it absolutely impossible for either country to budge from their respective position.

Thus, any further negotiation to demarcate that border will only prove fruitless.

But is demarcation really necessary? The border in the temple area has been in dispute for well over 100 years, but for much of that time both sides have co-existed along it in relative peace. Demarcation of land boundaries is, in fact, primarily a Western (read "colonial") concept. As Canadian scholar Andreas Buss pointed out in a 2010 article about Preah Vihear and regional customary law, "Traditionally, the king was a king over people rather than over a defined area of territory; territorial jurisdiction could not be strictly defined by permanent boundaries, but was characterised by fluidity and flexibility, dependent on the power of the central government."

An earlier Bangkok Post article about the temple dispute, "A fine line" on May 22, 2008, reported comments by anthropologist and archaeologist Srisakra Vallibhotama. According to him, "Watershed lines were traditionally considered by ancient people as no man's land, belonging to no one. Crossing the areas required the performing of rituals... People from both sides came to Preah Vihear to perform rituals, as they do to this very day."

Well, maybe a "no man's land" is not a viable idea today, as some might see that as conceding Thai territory - a definite non-starter.

But why not simply leave the disputed area "disputed", and include it within a larger area administered by Unesco for the benefit of both countries?

A resident of Thailand’s Ban Phumsarol village near the temple chases a PAD activist on Sept 9, 2009. Villagers felt the activists from the People’s Alliance for Democracy were a nuisance that upset their livelihood, which depended on trade with their Cambodian fellow villagers.

The earlier article also reported comments of Tharapong Srisuchat, director of the Fine Arts Department's Office of Archaeology. According to him, "Each World Heritage site must consist of its nucleus, core zone and buffer zone, which should be circular, but Preah Vihear in Cambodia's proposal is in the shape of a fan with the core zone at its lowest end. The temple's surroundings located in Thai territory... are also important and should go together with the sanctuary in the nomination."

As it stands now, the temple remains closed, military forces are massed against one another, and both countries continue to lose out on the potentially immense benefits of tourism to the area. And over what?

Is it not time to take a step back and focus on what the benefits can be to both countries, rather than continue to be influenced by Western concepts of boundaries?

As pointed out by Mr Srisakra the anthropologist, "Ancient people just looked for a symbol before crossing from one zone to another but France drew the line for us to accept."

Why not negotiate toward a joint management area, under the oversight of Unesco, into which visitors from both countries could freely enter, see the temple and its surrounding areas, and then return the same day to the country from which they came?

It need not be a border crossing, and no need for a marked border, but only signs that read: "Welcome to the Preah Vihear Historical Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site." (Or maybe, on the Thai side, the sign could read, "Welcome to the Phra Viharn Historical Park.")

To exit, visitors would follow signs that said either "To Thailand" or "To Cambodia" and, at the respective document checking posts, a sign would simply say, "Leaving the Preah Vihear (Phra Viharn) Historical Park. Thank You for Visiting."

As for maps, both countries could continue to draw their respective boundary lines as they see fit, though it would make more sense to just have the lines end at the junction with the line surrounding the historical park, leaving the "real" boundary lines inside disputed. Both Thai and Cambodian flags, however, should be flown together as an equal pair throughout the park, regardless of whether a particular area of the park was or was not concededly a part of one country or the other.

The one and only exception would be at the very summit of the temple itself, where a single Cambodian flag would be allowed to fly. After all, the International Court of Justice did declare that "This is Cambodia", albeit with greater grammatical correctness.

UN Rep Investigates Land Dispute

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A UN official visits the site of a land dispute as part of his inquiry into human rights in Cambodia.
Surya Subedi talks with Hun Sen (L) in Phnom Penh, Jan 19, 2010.
A United Nations human rights representative visited a Cambodian village community embroiled in a land dispute on Friday as part of a fact-finding mission for a set of wider reforms he is recommending to the country’s leadership.

The visit by Surya Subedi, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, came on the fourth day of a 10-day trip to the country, and followed a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen where he expressed concerns about the country’s court system and a new law on nongovernmental organizations.

Subedi told RFA that it is important to take the complaints of Cambodia’s rural population into consideration in addition to speaking with high-level officials while forming an overview of the country’s human rights situation.

“I wanted to speak to people from all walks of life in Cambodia, and I wanted to see the villagers for myself to listen to them directly—their grievances—and then see for myself the area where they are living now and the conditions there as well. This is purely a fact-finding mission and … [for] information gathering,” Subedi said.

He traveled to the site, in central Kompong Chhnang province, to investigate a land dispute case in which NGO worker, who represented the villagers, had been jailed. The dispute was with a company owned by Lauk Chumteav Chea Kheng, the wife of Cambodia’s mining minister.

Land grab

Sam Chankea was convicted in January of “defamation” against KDC International Co. after he told RFA in a 2009 interview that the company had committed an “act of violation” when it confiscated land from the villagers, because the provincial court had yet to rule on the disputed property.

The dispute dates back to 2002 when KDC International took possession of some 184 hectares (455 acres) of land from more than 100 families in the area.

“I now have a much better idea and information about the plight of the villagers and the disputed land," Subedi said.

"I will try to speak to government authorities about what they have been doing about this dispute and what the response of the other party has been and what other avenues there are to look after the interests of the villagers,” he said.

“I will consider whether I will need to intervene at certain levels of government authorities, and if I decide to do so, I will not hesitate to do so.”

Subedi said that he had a number of meetings scheduled with various ministers and that he planned to use the Pursat land case as an example of how the government must work to improve its human rights record.

Fact-finding meetings

In addition to meeting with the prime minister, Subedi has been busy since arriving in Cambodia on his fourth mission for the U.N., meeting with officials from the ruling party and from the opposition, observing trials, and speaking with NGOs.

On Wednesday, the special rapporteur met with Thun Saray, director of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) to discuss the concerns of domestic NGOs operating in the country.

“The problems include a land crisis that adversely affects the people. We propose a swift and satisfactory solution for those who have been affected by the land conflict,” Thun Saray said in an interview recounting their conversation.

The land issue in Cambodia dates from the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime, which forced large-scale evacuations and relocations throughout the country.

This was followed by mass confusion over land rights and the formation of squatter communities when the refugees returned in the 1990s after a decade of civil war.

Housing Cambodia’s large, young, and overwhelmingly poor population has posed a major problem ever since.

Judicial reform

Thun Saray also advised Subedi that Cambodia’s notoriously ineffective judicial system is in dire need of restructuring.

“The justice system should be reformed. We all see the shortcomings and flaws in the system. The reform should start by looking into the flaws point by point. For example, the flaws happen in the process of trials and court proceedings which result in unjust rulings,” he said.

“The public is unsatisfied with the current process of court trials. We have to look, investigate these shortcomings, and fix them.”

More than one-quarter of Cambodian court defendants reported being tortured or coerced into confession, and ordinary people said they lack faith in the justice system, according to a 2009 judicial review released by Cambodian anti-corruption organization The Center for Social Development.

Poor training of the judiciary, bribery, torture, underfunding, a lack of independence, and frequent pre-trial detention of prisoners for terms exceeding the legal limit of six months are among problems with the judiciary often cited by rights organizations.

At the end of his last visit in June, Subedi said the judiciary faced “tremendous challenges in delivering justice for the people of the country, especially the poor and marginalized,” adding that some judges were simply not interested in upholding the law.

NGO law

Thun Saray also discussed a controversial draft law put forth by Cambodia’s National Assembly which would severely curtail the ability of foreign and domestic NGOs operating in the country to carry out their work.

Last month a U.S. State Department spokesman said the United States had “serious concerns about the law as drafted and strongly opposes the enactment of any law that would constrain the legitimate activities of NGOs.”

The State Department urged Phnom Penh to consult with NGOs on the substance of the draft law and to “reconsider whether such a measure is even necessary.”

Cambodia’s government has long had an antagonistic relationship with human rights groups and NGOs operating in the country.

Last year, Hun Sen said he wanted the U.N. human rights office in Cambodia closed and its representative, Christophe Peschoux, sacked.

Subedi is expected to hold a press conference in Phnom Penh on Feb. 24 during which he will review some of the key issues raised during his visit before compiling a report for the United Nations.

He last presented his findings to the U.N. in September 2010.

Reported by Pon Bun Song and Khe Sonorng for RFA’s Khmer service. Translated by Vuthy Huot. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Hun Sen playing high stakes game

via CAAI

Published: 19/02/2011 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

The government was hardly taken by surprise when Cambodia resorted to citing the International Court of Justice's 1962 ruling on ownership of Preah Vihear as the border dispute between the two sides unfolded this week.

The ICJ ruled that the temple belonged to Cambodia, but did not determine who owned the 4.6 square kilometres of surrounding land.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong raised the 1962 verdict at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting in New York on Monday.

In the last paragraph of his statement, Hor Namhong said the UNSC may refer to the ICJ for interpretation of its judgement according to Article 96.1 of the UN Charter, because the 1962 ruling - and its misinterpretation - is the root cause of the conflict.

The UNSC, however, did not look closely into the ICJ's decision, instead calling for the two countries to agree to a permanent ceasefire and to allow Asean to mediate the matter.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Thursday that his government would ask the ICJ to rule on the matter again.

Phnom Penh is adamant that bilateral negotiations are not the answer to the dispute and will try all means to avoid them. It prefers to take the matter back to court, because it has won there before.

Cambodia is also aware that Thailand does not favour outsiders getting involved in the border row - which is perhaps why Phnom Penh is proposing signing a peace deal witnessed by other Asean member countries.

Thailand is unlikely to agree, so the meeting of all 10 Asean foreign ministers in Jakarta on Feb 22 looks unlikely to result in a solution.

In taking the case back to the ICJ, Phnom Penh is prepared to hire lawyers who have experience fighting border disputes before the international court. But Thailand is confident it will be able to better defend itself this time if the matter does go to the ICJ.

Bangkok believes the ICJ will not hand a repeat victory to Cambodia simply on the basis of its 1962 ruling.

That the dispute has carried on ever since highlights its complexity.

If this assumption is true, the ICJ might defer its authority to the two countries to reach their own settlement, which would back up Thailand's position that no one knows the problems on the border better than those involved in the dispute: itself, and Cambodia.

Trairong confident about Cambodia trade relationship

via CAAI

Published: 19/02/2011 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Business

Despite the recent border tensions, Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to move ahead with strengthening bilateral economic relations, says Deputy Prime Minister Trairong Suwannakhiri.

Mr Trairong, who led a Thai mission to Phnom Penh on Thursday, said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen assured his visitors that the dispute would be contained to the border area around the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple so that the two nations could conduct normal trade activities.

The Cambodian premier also guaranteed the safety of Thai businessmen and investors with interests in his country.

Withaya Sukchomthong, a Thai entrepreneur in Phnom Penh, said he was finding it harder to sell Thai products these days due to scattered boycotts from small groups.

However, he said he felt the sentiment would be only temporary. He urged the governments to improve relations before the dispute starts to affect the competitiveness of Thai products against goods from China and Vietnam.

Kim Noreak, general manager of C.P. Cambodia, said it was stressing that Thai investments help strengthen the local economy. More than 90% of his company's employees are Cambodian.

ADRA Drills Wells to Assist Displaced Cambodians

via CAAI

Source: Adventist Development and Relief Agency International (ADRA)

Date: 18 Feb 2011

SILVER SPRING, Md. – More than 30,000 people have fled their homes following renewed violent clashes in a disputed area between Cambodia and Thailand, prompting the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) to begin well drilling operations in an effort to provide clean drinking water to thousands of displaced families living in makeshift camps.

Following deadly fighting from February 4 to 7 over a disputed temple in the Preah Vihear province in northern Cambodia, an assessment of various local displaced persons camps indicated high demand for water purification systems and improved water sources. ADRA responded by drilling wells in strategic sites in Tmei Commune to give water access to 2,488 families. In addition, ADRA distributed 1,200 water filters to further guarantee safe drinking water when beneficiaries go back to their own communities.

ADRA's first completed well provides up to 2,110 gallons (approximately 8,000 liters) of water per hour. To date, ADRA has built two wells and is in the process of completing a third. Following an assessment, ADRA will determine if a fourth well is needed.

According to ADRA Cambodia, both the government and other humanitarian aid agencies have welcomed ADRA's initiative to drill the wells, especially since water access had been limited to water truck deliveries and bottled water.

The Preah Vihear governor's office and related authorities have indicated that if the situation remains calm, most of the families will return home soon. In the case of renewed fighting, however, there are concerns that the displacement situation will worsen in the region.

Since 2002 ADRA Cambodia has been working in Preah Vihear implementing a water, sanitation and agriculture project about 62 miles (100 km) from the disputed area. Prior to the most recent fighting, ADRA was drilling for water at a site only 18 miles (30 km) from the existing camp that was set up by the government to receive all displaced persons from the province.

The response was implemented in coordination with the Preah Vihear governor's office and two partner non-governmental organizations working with displaced persons. In addition, volunteers from the Adventist Church in Cambodia assisted ADRA staff in the project.

A dispute over the 11th century Preah Vihear Temple, a UNESCO World heritage Site, has reignited a conflict between Cambodia and Thailand that dates back decades in which each country claims rights to the temple. In the past, disputes have been often brief, however, the latest clashes erupted into deadly fighting that lasted for several days and left eight people dead and injured nearly 100 others.

To send your contribution to ADRA's Emergency Response Fund, please contact ADRA at 1.800.424.ADRA (2372) or give online at

Follow ADRA on Twitter and Facebook to get the latest information as it happens.

ADRA is a global non-governmental organization providing sustainable community development and disaster relief without regard to political or religious association, age, gender, race or ethnicity.

For more information about ADRA, visit .

Author: Hearly G. Mayr, ADRA International

Thailand intends no peace with Cambodia

via CAAI

Feb 18, 2011 21:24 Moscow Time

Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva intends no ceasefire talks with Cambodia.

“It’s not us who started this conflict, and it’s not us who must stop it,” he said in an interview to The Bangkok Press newspaper.

The armed conflict between Cambodia and Thailand was caused by a dispute over a piece of land where an ancient Hindu temple Preah Vihear stands.

12 people have already been killed in fire exchanges.

On Thursday, Cambodia suggested signing a peace deal, with ASEAN as mediators. Thailand, however, insists on direct talks.

This is to show to UN of how peace talk between Thai and Cambodia will work

Cambodia makes border mountain a strategic point

via CAAI

By The Nation
Published on February 19, 2011

Phu Makhua has caught the media limelight since it became a clash point between Thai and Cambodian soldiers early this month

The border skirmishes caused casualties and sent thousands of people fleeing for safety.

Locals along the borderline have known the Phu Makhua very well.

It is a mountain full of stripe eggplant during rainy season. The plant, known as "makhua lai" in Thai, has given the mountain its name.

Phu Makhua is located in a disputed area near Wat Keow Sikha Kiri Svara and the Preah Vihear Temple. Thai rangers used to have a base on Phu Makhua but abandoned it about a decade ago for unknown reasons.

Cambodian troops have clearly marked Phu Makhua as a strategic location. This explains why Cambodia has installed iron ladders with more than 900 steps for its troops to climb up to the top of Phu Makhua. Cambodia has also constructed a system for two makeshift cable cars for the purpose of carrying its troops and military supplies up to the mountaintop.

The cable-car system is on a spot known among Thai soldiers as "hua doh". Thai villagers have called the spot "pa lan tham phra" because it is a quite spacious stone yard.

Presently, some 1,600 troops from a Cambodia's special-warfare unit are now deployed at Phu Makhua. This is in addition to a military unit widely known as Hun Sen's loyal bodyguards. Members of this unit are war orphans supported by Hun Sen. They are thus very loyal to Hun Sen and his family. This unit is now under the supervision of Hun Sen's beloved son, Hun Manet.

These soldiers are on top of troops positioned on the frontline.

Cambodia, moreover, is now clearing way for its plan to construct a road that will run from Komui village of Cambodia's Preah Vihear province to Phu Makhua, and to the Preah Vihear Temple.

The construction of the road is now 70-per-cent complete.

The new road is clearly a strategic route for military operations. Many of Cambodia's military bases will enjoy access to this road.

The road is also part of Cambodia's management plan for the Preah Vihear Temple complex, which it hopes the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) will approve.

The management plan follows the Unesco decision to inscribe the ancient Hindu temple as a world-heritage site in Cambodia three years ago.

Since Cambodia unilaterally sought the inscription, border tension has intensified. Thailand has now objected to the management plan proposed by Cambodia with the argument that some parts of the Preah Vihear complex are located on Thai soil.

Thailand: Too early for cease-fire (Is that what Siam want to find peace solution?)

via CAAI

BANGKOK, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva says it is too soon to sign a cease-fire agreement with Cambodia, which he said started a "fight."

The countries have been shooting at each other near a disputed border near the Preah Vihear temple, the Bangkok Post reported.

"We were not the ones who started the fight. It is still too soon to talk about signing any agreement," Abhisit said. "Thailand said from the beginning that we were not the first to open fire. We did what other countries would -- that is, when we are fired at or attacked first, we fire back. We have the right to protect our sovereignty."

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen proposed the cease-fire. He said signing could be witnessed by members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at a meeting next week.

The U.N. Security Council has called for a permanent cease-fire between Thailand and Cambodia.

The International Court of Justice awarded Cambodia the temple, which can only reached by crossing into Thai territory, in 1962 but the countries continue to fight over boundary issues, the report said.

Thai Patriots Network sacks legal advisor for Veera, Ratree

via CAAI

BANGKOK, Feb 18 -- The Thai Patriots Network (TPN) has sacked Nathaporn Toprayoon as its legal advisor overseeing the cases of two Thais --Veera Somkwamkid, a key network activist and his secretary Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, both jailed in Cambodia--and network representatives will visit them in prison to ask for their final decision on appeal attempt, according to leading TPN activist Chaiwat Sinsuwong.

Mr Nathaporn said Thursday that he has received a request from the families of Mr Veera, network coordinator, and Ms Ratree, asking the network to drop the plan to appeal their cases and submit a request seeking an intervention from international organisations in the case.

He said their families were worried about their living circumstances in the Cambodian prison and wanted them back to Thailand as soon as possible so that they would ask the Thai government to seek a royal pardon from the Cambodian king.

Mr Chaiwat said his group had not yet been told by the prisoners' families that the two would not appeal their verdicts and would seek a royal pardon from the Cambodian king instead.

TPN members have not yet met the two, but will stick to their principle, which is to help them in fighting the case, Mr Chaiwat said.

Mr Chaiwat said his group had contacted the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh asking it to facilitate TPN leaders meeting with the two on Feb 25 and to “respect their decisions.”

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.

Mr Chaiwat said the TPN committee stripped Mr Nathaporn of his role as legal advisor after the group found that they “couldn’t work well with each other,” and gave no further details.

Meanwhile, Mr Nathaporn said in an telephone interview that he actually has not been officially appointed by TPN as the network's legal adviser.

Mr Nathaporn said he volunteered to help in the cases of Mr Veera and Ms Ratree because he knew Mr Veera personally.

He said the TPN has no right to dismiss him as part of the legal advisory team as he was not appointed and has never attended network meeting except in Mr Veera's case that he join the two or three meetings.

He said it was unfair to eject him just because he told a truth different from the network's ideals.

Mr Nathaporn added that Mr Veera and Mr Ratree had signed letters giving power of attorney naming him as their proxy in legal matters related to the case so that only two of them have rights to dismiss him

Mr Veera and Ms Ratree's families were scheduled to hold a press briefing on Saturday over the matter, but time and place would announce later. (MCOT online news)

Rallies against interests of jailed Thais: PM

via CAAI

Published on February 19, 2011

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva warned yesterday that if the yellow shirts continued protesting and pressuring the Cambodian government, it might have negative consequences on the two Thai nationals being held in a Phnom Penh prison.

He added that the government was doing what it could to help get Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipatanapaiboon released.

Abhisit also stressed that the decision on legal proceedings would ultimately depend on the two detainees and their families. The prime minister admitted |that the conflict between Thailand and Cambodia was complicating matters, and urged the Thai Patriots Network (TPN) to cooperate instead of making things worse.

TPN is planning to send representatives to visit Veera and Ratree in prison next Friday and find out how they want to proceed.

In a related development, Abhisit said he was not aware of any Asean forces being deployed in Cambodia or if the neighbouring country would take the conflict to the World Court.

Meanwhile, Nattaporn Tor-prayoon, the lawyer representing Veera and Ratree, said TPN did not have the authority to sack him because the network had not hired him.

The network is unhappy about the lawyer planning to seek a royal pardon for the two activists instead of fighting the case through courts. Nattaporn, denying that the Thai Foreign Ministry had pressured him, said he had spoken to Veera's younger brother yesterday morning and he had confirmed that the two were still planning to seek a royal pardon.

"I hope they are sympathetic to the others [detained] and recognise the hardship [in prison]. Perhaps they might want to try being in jail themselves," Nattaporn said. "Do not mix politics with the suffering of others."


Nattaporn said the families of the two might issue a public statement soon, explaining that the decision to take the battle to the Appeal Court had been dropped because of the length of time involved.

The Thai Patriots Network, led by Chaiwat Sinsuwong, had announced earlier that it had relieved Nattaporn of his duties because he had wrongly advised his clients to seek a royal pardon.

TPN added that they considered the entire court proceedings illegitimate because Veera and Ratree, along with the five who have been released, were wrongly accused of trespassing and |espionage. The group has also denounced the Abhisit |government as being insincere |in solving the problem and securing the release of the two detainees.

Meanwhile, in Si Sa Ket, which saw deadly clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops earlier this month, about 450 new bunkers will be built and the 300 old ones renovated, Governor Somsak Suwansujarit said yesterday.

Work on the bunkers will begin on Monday in the border district of Kantharalak, which was hit by a hail of rockets from Cambodia during the four days of fighting. The governor said he expected the bunkers to offer villagers better protection in case of renewed fighting.

Yesterday, a Thai F-16 jet fighter was spotted flying near Preah Vihear Temple, which is located on the common border between the two countries.

Eco-holiday in Cambodia

via CAAI

Besides the country’s beaches and temples, Cambodia also offers alternative options for tourists, such as a luxury waterborne ecolodge deep in pristine rainforest

By Jane Dunford / The Guardian, London

It’s pitch black as I set off tentatively in my kayak, the starless sky merging seamlessly into the inky river. The only sound is of my paddle in the water and a faint chirping of cicadas. Suddenly the darkness is broken — a tree decorated in a thousand fairy lights is frantically flickering on the riverbank.

“It’s the firefly disco,” says Chilly, my guide, pointing at the twinkling display.

I am, it’s fair to say, in the middle of nowhere. This is the Tatai river, east of Koh Kong, in the southern reaches of Cambodia’s Cardamom mountains. Half-way between Bangkok and Phnom Penh, this is a pristine area of rainforest and coastal mangroves that barely features on the tourist trail.

What’s more I’m camping — though it’s not exactly pop-up tent and baked beans. I’m staying at the Four Rivers Floating Lodge, which takes glamping to a whole new extreme.

The brilliant idea of Romanian owner Valentin Pawlik, the entire resort is waterborne. You get here by boat, arriving at one of a series of floating wooden platforms. A central pontoon houses bar, restaurant and library. There are 12 huge and super-luxurious South African safari tents (six more are planned), with private decks and sunloungers, double-sinked en suite bathrooms, and flatscreen TVs and DVD players that seem a tad incongruous in the heart of the jungle. But, hey, this is wilderness in style.

It’s all very eco-friendly too — largely solar-powered, and staffed mostly by locals — so you needn’t have a guilty conscience. Move it away and there’d be little sign that it had ever existed.

Leaving the fireflies to party I paddle slowly back home and feast on spicy shrimp and freshwater fish with coconut, cooked in banana leaves, before heading for a blissful night’s rest, lulled to sleep by the gentle bobbing of the water.

Most visitors to Cambodia flock to the revitalized capital of Phnom Penh further east, and the temples around Siem Reap in the north. This coastal region, part of the Koh Kong Conservation Corridor, is home to some of the country’s most impressive natural sights. The long civil war kept developers and loggers at bay, and the potential for ecotourism is huge (although the threat of hydroelectric power plants looms).

Four Rivers, with its gorgeous setting on a bend in the river, is magical at all times of day — misty in the morning, glowing at sunset and prettily lit up after dark — and as tranquil a place as you could wish for. I spend much of my time here kayaking through the mangrove maze (spotting those fireflies, and watching monkeys gather at the water’s edge at dusk), swimming in the river from steps outside my tent (a pool is planned) and visiting waterfalls, where the pounding torrent gives a great back massage.

There are excursions into the jungle, led by a former poacher, to spot wildlife and to visit villages and fruit plantations. (Overnight camping is a new option too). As I’m here at the end of the rainy season, when leeches and mud make trekking treacherous, we take a boat downstream instead. Thick mangrove forests line the banks, and dolphins can sometimes be spied in the estuary opening on to the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Kong island appears on the horizon, an as yet undeveloped paradise with pristine beaches and untouched rainforest.

We stop at Koh Sra Lau, an island with one tiny fishing village, and wander around while women sit mending nets and offer us fried fish with tamarind sauce and papaya. There’s no tourist fatigue here, just friendly welcomes. A little boy grabs my hand and leads me to the village school, where children proudly sweep the classroom before the teachers appear.

I’m keen to explore more, so the next day head to Chi Phat village, and a community-based project started by conservation charity Wildlife Alliance in the Southern Cardamoms Protected Forest. It aims to preserve the rainforest by helping villagers earn a living from ecotourism, instead of illegal logging or hunting endangered animals, and giving tourists a unique green adventure. It’s a winding bus journey down to the port town of Andoung Tuek and a two-hour boat ride along Phipot river to the village. There are several guesthouses, but I choose a homestay on the outskirts of town with Chou and her young family, who sit underneath the stilted wooden house, a cow curled at their feet like a pet dog. A far cry from the luxuries of Four Rivers it may be, but it’s clean, comfortable and a great way to see everyday village life.

Chi Phat is all about outdoor adventure: You can trek or cycle into jungle and mountains for days at a time, sleeping in hammocks or rustic campsites, go birdwatching, take boat trips or check out the nearby bat caves and an area dotted with mysterious ancient burial jars. I sign up for a 28km mountain bike tour to O’Malu waterfall. Crossing grassy plains and traditional farmland, we follow Lucky — a 23-year-old from the village who’s been trained in everything from bike maintenance to wildlife spotting — up steep paths through the tangled jungle, with gibbons calling high overhead. It’s a challenging ride in parts (yep, I end up on my bum in a puddle at one point) but jumping into the cool pool at the base of the waterfall is a great reward.

There’s no one else around as we tuck into lunch, sitting on rocks in the sunshine, surrounded by rainforest, the waterfall roaring. Marvelous though the sights of Angkor Wat and the buzz of Phnom Penh are, I can’t help thinking that it’s Cambodia’s more remote natural attractions that offer the best adventure — and one it would be a shame to miss.

VOA Khmer 2010: The Year That Was


February 17, 2011
VOA Khmer was in the hot seat today- we were evaluated for our work in 2010. VOA Khmer was on fire! ''Dynamic'' we were told. Have a look at our video highlights. Again, congrats to our team!

UNSC: ASEAN Plays a Role in Cambodia Thai Conflict (Cambodia news in Khmer)

voakhmerservice | February 18, 2011

Speaking to reporters immediately after the UN Security Council meeting in New York on Monday on Cambodia-Thai border conflict, Council President, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, says "the idea is to work in synergy with regional effort and right now regional effort is in full force."

Anemia Easily Identified Through Blood Tests: Doctor

Nuch Sarita, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Friday, 18 February 2011

via CAAI

Photo: AP
One is hemoglobin E, a common blood abnormality that occurs in as many as a quarter of Southeast Asians, especially in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.

"Symptoms of anemia include jaundice, brittle nails, very pale whites of eyes, fatigue, headache, pale skin color, sore tongue and fatigue."

Iron-deficiency anemia, a condition that affects red blood cells, can be easily tested and diagnosed, a US physician said Thursday.

A blood sample is taken and sent to a laboratory for examination of the red blood cells, which appear small and pale under a microscope, said the doctor, Taing Tek Hong, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

Four different tests can be used, he said, one that measures a percentage of red cells in the blood, one to learn the amount of iron stored in the body, one that shows total iron in the blood, and one that examines the protein that carries iron in the blood.

Symptoms of anemia include jaundice, brittle nails, very pale whites of eyes, fatigue, headache, pale skin color, sore tongue and fatigue. Some people with the illness like eating ice, he said.

Foods that provide iron include chicken, red meat, fish, seafood, soybeans, kidney and pinto beans, watercress, spinach and other greens, prunes, raisins and oranges, he said.

A person with anemia should avoid tea, coffee or milk with meals as they interfere with the absorption of iron.

There are other blood conditions to be aware of, he said.

One is hemoglobin E, a common blood abnormality that occurs in as many as a quarter of Southeast Asians, especially in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.

The abnormality is an inherited condition, but most people who have it show no symptoms of it and are usually healthy, the doctor said. It can also occur alongside another condition, thalassemia, a genetic condition that hurts the production of hemoglobin.

Many families may carry thalassemia unknowingly, as it produces no symptoms. However, in some cases where both parents pass the genes on to their children, major illness can occur.

In Northern Preah Vihear, Lao Is a Way of Life

Pich Samnang, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Friday, 18 February 2011

via CAAI

Photo: by Pich Samnang
Kampong Sra Lao II consists of four villages with more than 380 families, nearly 2,000 people living along the Mekong.

“Every village in the commune is accustomed to Lao, every household, every person, speaks that language.”

In a remote corner of Preah Vihear province, an identity shift is under way. Here on the border, where the Mekong river spills over rocky falls from Laos into Cambodia, a younger generation is increasingly adopting a Lao way of life.

“Their parents only speak Lao with them,” said Neang Phann, an eldery villager in Kampong Sra Lao II commune, in Chaep district. “Some parents aren’t even able to speak Khmer.”

In a village 100 kilometers north of the provincial capital, Neang Phann sat on the wooden stairs of a stilt house, surrounded by grandchildren who were likely unable to understand what she was saying.

“Even though I try to use Khmer with my grandchildren,” she said, “they don’t follow me.”

Kampong Sra Lao II consists of four villages with more than 380 families, nearly 2,000 people living along the Mekong.

For decades, Cambodians here have been much more isolated from their fellow countrymen than from their Lao neighbors to the north. Goods and services are exchanged across the border, as are nuptials.

That has meant heavy influence of Lao culture and language, from weddings and funerals to house styles and currency.

Lao has become the lingua franca of the area, said Thou Ham, a 42-year-old farmer and deputy village chief. “It has already become a habit,” he said. “Every village in the commune is accustomed to Lao, every household, every person, speaks that language.”

“I do it with my kids,” he admitted. “They don’t like me speaking Khmer.”

Each of the four villages has a primary school, but classes are irregular due to a shortage of teachers. Technically, Khmer literacy is a requirement, but Lao is more commonly spoken in everyday life.

That has Khuon Pann, the deputy commune chief, worried.

“If our people continue to speak Lao, this area will become part of Laos,” he said. “We’re losing both our family name and our identity now. So we’ll become Laotians.”

Chaep District Governor Ung Vuthy says the government is planning to build a road to connect the area to the province and to bring in Khmer concerts and cultural forums.

“We can no longer keep them quietly isolated,” he said. “Otherwise, it will be more difficult for us in the future.”