Monday, 2 May 2011

Thousands march on International Labour Day

via CAAI

Monday, 02 May 2011 15:01Tep Nimol

MORE than 3,000 people paraded through the streets of Phnom Penh yesterday to deliver a strong message on International Labour Day.

Police cleared about three kilometers of road as members of the Cambodian Labour Confederation and supporters, all wearing green t-shirts, marched across town from near the Cambodia Development Council to the National Assembly.

Demonstrators handed out leaflets to bystanders along the route, highlighting a number of requests that were contained in a CLC letter addressed to the National Assembly.

Ath Thorn, president of CLC, said the letter set out 10 points that aim to improve workers’ rights and job security throughout the Kingdom. The document called for the government to reject the current NGO draft law and also requested an increase in monthly pay for workers in the garment, construction and tourism sectors, a reduction in the price of petrol and the creation of a labour court, among other points.

A press release published yesterday on behalf of 23 local and international unions and NGOs also requested governments to increase the minimum wage across Asia to US$172.50 per month.

Participant Chhun Lida, 26, a garment worker, said that her employer denied the rights of workers and the demands of her union. She said that workers wanted employers to respect the law.

While Cheam Yeab, Cambodian People Party lawmaker, said the current system in place does not mean that the government does not want to improve wages for workers. He added that unions and interest groups were using workers to gain momentum against the NGO draft law.

Unions agree to negotiate over blaze

via CAAI

Monday, 02 May 2011 15:01Chhay Channyda

UNIONS representing thousands of former garment workers who were left jobless after one of June Textile’s factories burnt down last month have said they will suspend industrial action pending the outcome of compensation talks later this week.

The negotiations follow a protest held at the charred remains of June Textile’s factory in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district, where some 4,000 former employees gathered on Friday.

“We will gather all the workers on Sunday evening to inform them about the negotiations with the factory and government officials from the Ministry of Labour on Wednesday,” Yin Saroeun, president of the Hope Union, said on Friday.

The laid off workers have rejected part of a compensation offer affording them US$20 per worker in seniority bonuses, instead demanding $150, he added. But Meng Try, administrative manager at June Textile, said a $20 seniority bonus was a reasonable offer given that the company had sustained millions of dollars in losses from the fire that broke out at their Tek Thla factory shortly before Khmer New Year.

He said the former employees had also been offered 18 days worth of compensation payments at a rate of $2 a day.

Police Blotter: 02-05-2011

via CAAI

Monday, 02 May 2011 15:00Sen David

Police officer stabbed in Poipet city amid fight
A 44-YEAR-OLD police officer was seriously injured after intervening in an argument between a couple in Poipet city on Thursday. Police said that the couple were arguing when the husband attacked his wife. A neighbour of the couple then contacted the police. When the officer arrived on the scene to diffuse the situation, the husband allegedly stabbed him twice with a knife. The policeman was sent to hospital while the suspect was arrested and sent to court. KOH SANTEPHEAP

Spousal spat leads to blaze at happy home
POLICE in Kampong Chhnang town said that a husband set fire to his house after he fought with his wife on Thursday. Police said that the husband, who was heavily intoxicated at the time, had engaged in an argument with his wife. The suspect then allegedly became enraged and set fire to his house. Luckily, neighbours came to their aid and put out the fire almost immediately. Both the husband and wife then fled the scene because the suspect was allegedly afraid to speak with police. KOH SANTEPHEAP

Police detain man over Pursat stabbing
THREE men were arrested on suspicion of murdering a man in Pursat’s Bakan district on Thursday. Police said that the suspects were drinking wine with the victim when an argument erupted. One of the suspects allegedly stabbed the man with a knife. After an investigation, police decided to release two of the suspects because they concluded that they were not directly involved in the murder. RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Cry of murder leads cops to heart attack
A 48-YEAR-OLD man was found dead next to his motorbike in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district on Thursday. Police said that he was a moto-dop and witnesses allegedly told the police that a murder had occurred. Police investigated the scene of the crime and concluded that it was not a homicide case and that the victim had actually died of a heart attack. Relatives of the deceased in Takeo province said that he had come to Phnom Penh for work and was distraught after divorcing his wife. KOH SANTEPHEAP

Five injured in Kampot bridge traffic accident
FIVE people were seriously injured in a traffic accident in Kampot town on Friday. Police said that a truck was being driven at excessive speeds when it crashed into a car on a bridge. The smash caused the car to careen off the structure into the river below. Traffic police managed to rescue all of the victims. Police have since impounded the two vehicles and have detained both drivers for questioning. RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Exploring success at Southern Gold sites

via CAAI

Monday, 02 May 2011 15:00Tom Brennan

AUSTRALIAN miner Southern Gold claims to have successfully targeted its 2011 drill campaign in its latest Cambodia results update, with strong results from some of its tenements

The firm claims to have found evidence of gold and base metals in testing conducted in two of its five Cambodia project areas, Kratie South in Mondulkiri province and Memot in Kratie province.

Southern Gold added that its Cambodia tenements showed similar mineralisation to that of the 600,000-ounce gold Okvau inferred resource defined by Oz Minerals in March 2010.

Kratie South is located 10 kilometres south of Oz Minerals’ Okvau tenement.

Preliminary results from its 2011 Cambodian drilling programme were positive, Southern Gold said, with some initial assay results showing separate samples of 5.42 grammes per tonne and 8.51 grammes per tonne of gold. However, the company said the bulk of its results wouldn’t be available until later this month or June.

“The work conducted and results received over the past few years by Southern Gold and other ‘pioneer’ Australian explorers in Cambodia has started to show the prospectivity of a country that has had limited ‘modern-day’ exploration or market attention," it said late last week.

Southern Gold operates three other drilling projects in Cambodia - Kratie North in Kratie and Mondulkiri provinces, Srea Pok in Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri provinces and Romdul in Kratie province.

Labour rights must start with good jobs

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Monday, 02 May 2011 15:00 Steve Finch

TALK surrounding yesterday’s Labour Day predictably focused on familiar themes of workers’ rights. But in Cambodia’s case, concentrating on issues such as equality, conditions and the length of shifts in the workplace misses the point.

The main labour problem in Cambodia is that most people simply do not have a stable, well-paid job in the first place and despite strong economic growth there remain few signs the situation is improving. Although the International Labour Organisation found the unemployment rate to be less than 2 percent last year, this statistic hides the reality of Cambodia’s job market.

Of those that are employed, more than 80 percent are in vulnerable work, according to the ILO. This often means work in the informal sector where revenues are unstable, social protection non-existent and the chance to save money in the event of joblessness is usually low. In rural areas, agricultural work is barely above subsistence level.

Among youth, by far the largest demographic in the country, close to 15 percent were estimated to be unemployed in Cambodia by the end of last year, according to the ILO. Despite GDP growth of 5.5 percent in 2010, which is expected to climb by about 1 percentage point this year, Cambodia simply cannot create enough jobs for the growing numbers of young people entering the workforce. When jobs are hard to come by, labour rights begin to take a back seat – ultimately, people become increasingly desperate just to get paid.

On the flip side, although many foreign employers here note the improvement in education and the employability of candidates, still risk analysts and major investors cite a lack of skills as among the most pressing disadvantages associated with doing business in this country. For instance, the ILO said last year that still one quarter of the Kingdom’s workforce is illiterate.

Cambodia is therefore caught in a vicious cycle when it comes to the labour market. On average the workforce is still considered to be low-skilled, meaning employers will either shun the country altogether, bring in foreign employees at the management level or restrict business activities to those which can make a profit from low-skilled labour, such as garments. In such an environment, how do workers receive the necessary training and remuneration to elevate their job status?

Part of the solution in theory would be higher government spending on education and vocational training, but this year the state allocated just 9.3 percent of the budget to education, or $223 million. By contrast, neighbouring Thailand attributes roughly double this percentage of its state spending to education.

Workers’ rights represent an obvious goal for any well-functioning economy, but in practice it remains hard to raise conditions when jobs are lacking in quality or scarce altogether. Poor labour rights are therefore a symptom of underlying problems associated with the job market.

Clearing customs: ASEAN and Japan chiefs talk trade

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Monday, 02 May 2011 15:00May Kunmakara

ASEAN and Japan’s customs chiefs met to discuss making trade more efficient in Phnom Penh on Friday.

Building off plans for greater economic connectivity in the ASEAN region by 2015, participants agreed to work toward what was called an “Asia Cargo Highway”, or a plan to allow for the free flow of goods across Asia.

Pen Simon, Director General of Cambodia’s Customs and Excise Department, who chaired the meeting, said the group also discussed ways to simplify trade procedures, reduce fees and create the conditions necessary to help boost economic development in the region.

Atsuo Shibota, Japan’s Director General of the Customs and Tariff Bureau at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry led the Japanese delegation.

CPL inks deal with South Korean firm

via CAAI

Friday, 29 April 2011 16:50Soeun Say

A LOCAL real-estate company has found a South Korean partner to capitalise on the Kingdom’s burgeoning property market, officials said yesterday.

Cambodia Properties Limited and South Korea’s Pacific Appraisal Co, a consultation and real-estate valuation firm, have signed an alliance agreement in which the two companies will work together to keep up with the sector’s latest developments.

Pacific Appraisal Chief Executive Officer Lee Sang-koo noted Cambodia’s status as a developing country and the opportunities inherent in doing business here.

“We are very interested to do business in Cambodia’s real-estate sector as it’s very popular among investors,” he said.

“We hope that we can work well [with CPL] and grow our businesses,” said Lee Sang-koo.

CPL’s Managing Director, Cheng Kheng, said he was excited about the partnership, saying Pacific Appraisal was a top firm in its field.

“This is our first big company-to-company agreement. We’re confident in them and our chances for success in the future,” he said.

Transactions in property market in the first quarter were up over last year, Cheng Kheng said.

“Our business was good for the first three months of this year. We closed many deals with investors from Vietnam, Philippine, Malaysia and especially South Korea,” he said, adding that the investors were interested in land development for food and beverage processing plants.

Pictures From Preah Vihear

In this photo taken Thursday, April 28, 2011, a unit of Thai rangers, background, assembles next to dead bodies of Cambodian soldiers at a battlefieldin Surin province, northeastern Thailand. Troops from Thailand and Cambodia exchanged fire at the countries' contested border again Saturday, April 30, 2011, marking the ninth straight day of clashes.« Read less
(AP Photo)

In this photo taken Thursday, April 28, 2011, a Thai ranger, left, watches as his comrades move away the body of a Cambodian soldier at a battlefield inSurin province, northeastern Thailand. Troops from Thailand and Cambodia exchanged fire at the countries' contested border again Saturday, April 30, 2011, marking the ninth straight day of clashes. (AP Photo)

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong (C) gestures during a news conference at the Phnom Penh International Airport April 30, 2011. Namhongreturned from the Hague where he submitted a request for the interpretation of a 1962 judgement at the International Court of Justice. The international court ruling awarded Preah Vihear to Cambodia in 1962, but Thailand has tried to thwart its attempt to list the temple as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it still lays claim to the 4.6-sq-km of scrub around it. REUTERS/Samrang Pring

Cambodian police stand guard near the border with Thailand in Samrong, Oddar Meanchey province. Thailand and Cambodia say they have agreed to end fiercefighting on their shared border after seven days of clashes that have left 15 dead. (AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Cambodia accused Thailand Monday of damaging ancient jungle temples at the centre of their bloodiest fighting since a bitter border dispute flared up almost three years ago. Duration: 02:11. (AFPTV/Bayon TV)

Cambodian soldiers take up positions with their weapons in Oddar Meanchey province, near the Cambodia-Thailand border May 1, 2011. REUTERS/Stringer

Cambodian soldiers gesture as they ride a truck in Oddar Meanchey province, 20 km  (12 miles) from the Cambodia-Thai border

Thai-Cambodian border clash an ‘embarrassment for ASEAN’

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Mustaqim Adamrah, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Mon, 05/02/2011

Thai and Cambodian military forces continue to exchange fire in their border area as both countries lay claim to the Preah Vihear Temple and its surrounding area although they have committed to a cease-fire a number of times. Indonesian and Cambodian journalists, including The Jakarta Post’s Mustaqim Adamrah, had a chance to interview Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya during his visit to Jakarta last week. Below are excerpts of the interview.

Question: Thailand and Cambodia have repeatedly pledged to maintain a cease-fire in February and last Thursday. So why did clashes occur again two weeks ago, with the latest last Friday?

Answer: To reaffirm for the record, we never started the clashes. We have no reason to be unfriendly to Cambodia.

First, we are major exporters to Cambodia. Our exports to Cambodia make up 90 percent of bilateral trade [between Thailand and Cambodia]. So, it’s on our interest to keep trading with and exporting to Cambodia.

Second, we are becoming major investors in [Cambodia] in many fields: electricity generation, [manufacturing] industry, tourism, healthcare and construction.

Third, we welcome 150,000 Cambodian workers to Thailand under a bilateral memorandum of understanding.

Fourth, we are becoming a major donor to Cambodian development, education, social, health and infrastructure development.

Fifth, there’s a growth in Thai tourism to Cambodia and at the same time, we are a transit point as international airlines come to Thailand and visitors take regional airlines to Cambodia. So Thailand is an entry point for Cambodian tourism.

Sixth, we started and initiated the ASEAN master plan of connectivity: physical infrastructure, roads, railways, ICT [information and communication technology], electricity and other things, inclusive of the Mekong River development, as well as people-to-people contact.

We and Cambodia are two kingdoms, one destination. Two months ago, we had an agreement with Cambodia for Cambodians to enter Thailand without the need for visas.

The Thai side of the border is heavily populated. Why should we fight when the munitions fall on Thai villages? The Cambodian side is sparsely populated.

It would be silly for us to keep shooting when we know very well that artillery from Cambodia will fall on villages, temples and schools as has been shown on television.

Last time we had to evacuate about 20,000 people. We had to build houses, repair temples and schools, and we had to build more bunkers.

The physical side [construction] is not as important as the morale of the people. Between 30,000 and 40,000 people have been displaced. Instead of spending time looking after their animals, growing rice and tapioca, they have to sleep on temple floors. The damage is not only on the dollar. It’s frightening to hear the gunfire.

What triggered the additional clashes at two separate temples — 150 kilometers away from Preah Vihear — where February’s skirmishes occurred?

From our point of view, the position of the two military units is about 50 meters apart.

Ten days ago, we found out that the Cambodians had moved closer to the Thai side and started to dig bunkers. So we told the Cambodian soldiers to move back and that’s when they started to shoot.

How has Indonesia played out its role as chair of ASEAN? Is it failing to do its job, especially in light of the latest clashes?

We highly appreciate the role of Indonesia — the seriousness, the sense of purpose and the goodwill. So we do whatever we can [to cooperate].

I don’t think [Indonesia is failing] because its responsibility is more or less behind the scenes. No one expected that fighting would break out 150 kilometers away [from the original flash point].

The conflict between the two countries is a waste of time. It’s a waste of resources for the Indonesian government, for Cambodia and for Thailand.

We have to respect and honor the role and involvement of Indonesia. Thailand is not in a position to embarrass the Indonesian government.

It’s sad for ASEAN that the two countries keep on fighting. I’m ashamed. It’s an embarrassment to ASEAN that this conflict has dragged us to the UN.

Cambodia's army condemns Thailand for 10 straight days of arms attacks

via CAAI

PHNOM PENH, May 1 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Ministry of Defense on Sunday afternoon issued a statement condemning Thai troops for their ten straight days of armed attacks into Cambodian territory at the 13th century Ta Mon temple and Ta Krabei temple in Oddar Meanchey province.

"The repeated invasions of Thai troops into Cambodia have caused gradual damage to Cambodia, it is an unacceptable act," said the statement. "The Royal Cambodian armed forces (RCAF) strongly condemn this latest series of the attacks on Cambodia."

"We'd like to appeal to Thai troops to keep their repeated promises of ceasefire in order to avoid further costing human lives--either soldiers or civilians."

The statement was issued after the latest round of sporadic clashes between the two countries' troops overnight Saturday- Sunday over the border disputed areas at Ta Mon temple and Ta Krabei temple, marking the ten straight days of the skirmishes.

The fighting had killed at least eight Cambodian soldiers, seven Thai soldiers and one Thai civilian, and forced some 100,000 villagers of both sides to flee homes for safe shelters.

However, Lt. Gen. Chhum Socheat, spokesman of Cambodia's Ministry of National Defense said on Sunday that following renewal of acts of aggression on the part of the Thai military on Saturday night through Sunday morning, one Cambodian soldier was killed and another was wounded.

"Again and again, the acts of aggression on the part of the Thai military continue to cause damage for Cambodia despite the agreement reached between Cambodian-Thai military commanders at military Region levels and frontline commanders at Division levels, " Chhum Socheat said.

"This is the tenth times that the Thai military violated the ceasefire agreement and promised, and spin doctored the situation and alleged against Cambodia while we are stationing on our sovereign territory," he added.

The two countries' border has never been completely demarcated. The conflict has occurred just a week after Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as a World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008.

The International Court of Justice awarded in 1962 that the 11th century Preah Vihear Temple belonged to Cambodia, but both countries claim ownership of a 4.6-square-kilometre (1.8-square- mile) surrounding area.

Editor: An

Cambodia Statment on Thai Military Act

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AKP Phnom Penh, May 2, 2011–Cambodia Statment on Thai Military Act

Cambodian, Thai sporadic clashes reach 11th day

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PHNOM PENH, May 2 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia said Monday that Thai troops had opened fire at its troops and territory at the 13th century Ta Krabei temple and Ta Mon temple in Oddar Meanchey province from Sunday night through Monday morning, marking the 11 straight days of deadly clashes.

"From 10:15 p.m. on Sunday night until 5:00 a.m. early Monday, Thai troops had thrown grenades at the areas of Ta Krabei temple and Ta Mon temple," Major General Seak Socheat, deputy commander of the front-battle region 3, told Xinhua by telephone on Monday morning. "Beside grenades, they had occasionally fired small guns at the two temples throughout the night."

"We just used small arms to fight back for a while in the fighting in early Monday in order to prevent their infantrymen to enter our territory," he added.

No casualty was reported in this sporadic clashes.

Cambodian and Thai troops have exchanged gunfire over the border disputed areas since April 22. The fighting had killed at least nine Cambodian soldiers, seven Thai soldiers and one Thai civilian, and forced some 100,000 villagers of both sides to flee homes for safe shelters. Both side blamed the other for the fighting over the past days.

The border between Thailand and Cambodia has never been completely demarcated. Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as a World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008. But Thailand claims the ownership of 4.6 square kilometers (1.8 square miles) of scrub next to the temple.

Just a week after the enlistment, Cambodia and Thailand had a border conflict, triggering 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.

Editor: Wang Guanqun

Fighting still going at Cambodia-Thailand border

via CAAI


Soldiers of Cambodia and Thailand continued exchanging fire in the disputed border area for the 10th straight day, turning a blind eye to the reached ceasefire agreement and commitments to solve all disputes peacefully.

The two sides exchanged automatic weapons fire overnight and before dawn of the May Day, Thai regional army spokesman Col. Prawit Hukaew said.

Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said the fighting took place around Ta Krabey and Ta Moan temples, which are in the two countries’ disputed area.

No casualties were reported from the April 30-May 1 fighting.

However, the clash, which broke out on April 22, killed at least 16 people and left nearly 100,000 civilians to evacuate.

This fighting was the sixth between the Thai and Cambodian armies since 2008 over the land border area, where both claim ownership. The area, in which stand 1,000 year-old ancient temples, has been the subject of dispute for more than a century.


ASEAN needs dispute settlement mechanism

via CAAI

Mustaqim Adamrah, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Mon, 05/02/2011

To the majority of Cambodians, warfare is not an option, even while their government and the Thai government are struggling to end border disputes.

Lita Cheng, a 20-year-old Cambodian woman, said that she and other Cambodians have the same desire — to have peace.

“We had a civil war a long time ago. We just want peace now,” she said Friday.

“There’s also a sensitive problem. Our neighbor wants to take our land. So this issue is very sensitive for Cambodians.”

Likewise, Cambodian Phalla Say said her country had gained peace just recently after the war among the Khmer.

“Now we don’t want to see any more conflicts between Cambodia and Thailand,” said the 28-year old.

Experts say it is timely for ASEAN in the upcoming ASEAN Summit on May 7-8 in Jakarta to consider renewing a dispute settlement mechanism to make it more effective than the “moral advice” that ASEAN is offering now.

“[The ASEAN Summit] is the right time for ASEAN to start thinking of new mechanisms that are more effective and binding in dispute resolution [because] the fact right now is that the desire to use weapons is still quite strong [among member countries], including Thailand,” Pelita Harapan University School of Social and Political Science dean Alexius Jemadu told The Jakarta Post recently.

“Otherwise, the relevance of ASEAN will be questionable to its own people and the international community,” he said.

He said Indonesia’s efforts to mediate the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia had ended embarrassing the current ASEAN chair due to the two parties’ inability to commit to their cease-fire agreement.

Parahyangan University international relations expert Bonggas Adi Chandra agreed, saying a code of conduct in dispute resolution should be included in the ASEAN Political and Security Community Blueprint.

“We need a specific dispute settlement mechanism that any ASEAN chair can conduct [when there’s a dispute between members],” he told the Post.

Current chair of ASEAN and Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa went to Phnom Penh and Bangkok in February for the so-called “shuttle diplomacy” after four days of border fighting
around the Preah Vihear temple that killed at least three Thais and eight Cambodians.

Thailand and Cambodia agreed in an ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting in Jakarta, about three weeks after the February clashes began, that both parties would maintain a cease-fire and would have an Indonesian observer team on both sides.

The agreement, however, seemed to be futile, with Thailand and Cambodia renewing their skirmishes last week around the Ta Krabey and Ta Moan temples. The death toll in the March fighting already hit 16 people from both sides.

Thailand and Cambodia renewed their truce agreement on Thursday, but peace was brief as clashes broke out again on Friday in a disputed zone along the frontier, The Associated Press reported.

Cambodian Col. Suos Sothea said that the Thai army fired artillery shells into Cambodia again Friday and small arms fire crackled anew around the Ta Krabey temple, AP reported.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Michael Tene said security issues would be one of the main agendas during the Summit.

But he said he was not sure if the Thailand-Cambodia border disputes would be specifically discussed during or on the sidelines of the Summit.

Bonggas said he doubted that the issues presently harbored between Thailand and Cambodia would be openly discussed by the leaders during the Summit due to ASEAN’s principle of non-interference.

Thai, Cambodian troops clash again at disputed border

via CAAI

May 02, 2011Troops from Thailand and Cambodia have exchanged fire again at their disputed border.

The Thai regional army spokesman, Colonel Prawit Hukaew, said the two sides exchanged automatic weapons fire overnight and before dawn yesterday as the conflict entered its 10th day.

Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said the fighting took place around the Ta Krabey and Ta Moan temples, which are in a disputed zone between the two nations.

No casualties were reported. At least 16 people have been killed and nearly 100,000 displaced since fighting began April 22. AP

Thailand going rogue? A different perspective

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By Pornpimol Kanchanalak
Special to The Nation
Published on May 2, 2011

The Wall Street Journal's editorial on "Thailand Going Rogue" published on April 26 needs a response. It is filled with "rigorous" hypothetical speculation and those conjectures were never verified. It also based on a loaded conspiracy theory whose foundation is at best unsound.

The article put the condemnation squarely on Thailand for being recalcitrant in hearing out peace initiatives. Without the normally required journalistic consideration for fair and equitable treatment of the subjects and subject matter, the article starts positing one huge hypothesis after another, and leaped to a conclusion about Thailand's motives and factual circumstances.

The first point of the article cites Thailand's refusal to accept the initiative to allow the Indonesian Observer Team (IOT) in the affected areas along the Thai-Cambodian border as evidence of Thailand's unwillingness to work towards peace.

Fact 1. It was the Thai foreign minister, Kasit Piromya, not the Cambodian, who proposed to the Asean meeting in Jakarta in February the deployment of an Asean observer team to the area of conflict. Unwittingly, his proposal was not attached with any conditions for implementation. Indonesia, which holds the rotating chair of Asean, in good faith, then drafted the terms of reference (TOR) for this IOT using the same guidelines as those governing the Aceh peace-monitoring activities by the European Union after the peace agreement was reached between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement - GAM.

Unfortunately, Aceh and the disputed 4.6 square kilometres on the Thai-Cambodian border are of a very different nature. Aceh is part of Indonesia and GAM was called the rebels, and all the monitoring bodies were under the jurisdiction of one government - that of Indonesia.

The Thai-Cambodian border row involves the conflicting claims of two sovereign nations. For this reason, the ToR that was applicable to Aceh is not germane to the Thai-Cambodian situation.

The key issue that makes the proposed TOR unacceptable to Thailand is the question of sovereign authority over the two observer teams. One will be deployed in undisputed Thai territory and, according to the TOR, will be under the supervision of Thai authorities.

The other observer team will be dispatched to the disputed area that the ToR considers to be under the jurisdiction of the Cambodian government. That would tip the scale of the delicate balance necessary for a negotiated peace. This issue, if left unaddressed, will become knottier, particularly when the Asean chair next year changes from Indonesia to Cambodia. The sweeping claim of the article that Thailand is unwilling to seek peace is erroneous because it ignores these important facts.

The second point of the article hypothesises that the Thai military has a hidden agenda to perpetuate the conflict. Worse, it makes the unsubstantiated claim that the military, the palace and business elite intentionally instigate and exacerbate the border clashes for their own self-serving interest, and that is to foil the general election that would make possible the return of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

If one does not have enough respect for the long-standing integrity and journalistic standard of this US newspaper, one may have thought that it was probably the hand of some directly interested party in Thai politics that penned this piece.

Fact 2. As much as Thais would like it to be, the Thai military does not have a unified stance and cannot be treated as a cohesive body. The Thai military may have pledged its loyalty to the monarchy as one of the three national pillars to defend, but the reality is quite different for some pledgers.

Fact 3. The article makes a cavernous connection between the yellow shirts and the palace. This is a continuing and blatant misconception. It is not only the yellow-shirt leaders who have been trying to legitimise the movement by dragging the monarchy into the fray for its own interest - many parties shamelessly have. The connection made between the yellow shirts, or the shirts of any colour, and the palace is as factually invalid as the argument that a man does not get pregnant because he is taking birth control pills.

Fact 4. Everybody seems to be fond of talking about the Thai "elite", who are the ultimate, omnipresent, omniscient conspirators/culprits who are equipped with a grand design for Thailand's political future. The truth is they are sheer theoretical phantoms or even a figment of the imagination. It was a catchphrase started by the supporters of Thaksin that has assumed a life of its own. No one, when pressed for an answer of who these "elite" are, can give a clear answer. It's always easier to deal with a complicated and senseless world if we believe in a creator who knows what he/she is doing. It is also quite romantic to have some "privileged" ones to blame with full vagaries of bias.

The third point of the article only talks about Thailand and its domestic politics as driving the Thai-Cambodian conflict. Never once does it ask the question if the same assertion can be applied to the Cambodian leadership.

Fact 5. Before the border clashes, the Cambodian people, who historically are more apprehensive about Vietnam, as many can still recall the five-skull torture, were beginning to vociferously question their leadership about the tens of thousands of square kilometres that it gave away to Vietnam under the long border demarcation bilateral dialogue. Sam Rainsy, the opposition leader who is very outspoken on this issue, got whipped out of the country and sentenced several times in absentia to multiyear jail terms.

Cracks began to become more visible in the tight grip of the leadership, which has been in office since 1998. After the border confrontation, it's the Cambodian people who became unified by the umbrage towards Thailand, not the other way around. There is also a real question of leadership succession. The designated heir apparent of the leadership was assigned to the heroic duty of commanding the Cambodian troops and strategy in the border disputes.

As things stand now, Thailand may be rightfully described as a divided nation that has lost her aspirations and sense of direction. But going rogue? That existential quantifier merits a different destination.

As Asean's chair, Indonesia faces uphill tasks

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By Kavi Chongkittavorn
The Nation
Published on May 2, 2011

When the Asean leaders meet for the first time later this week in Jakarta, new challenges await Indonesia as the chair. The ongoing Thai-Cambodian conflict, the status of the 2014 chair, the membership of Timor Leste and the common platform for Asean beyond 2015 are key issues that can make and break the 44-year organisation. In contrast, myriad other problems related to the realisation of an Asean Community in 1,328 days need to be managed without exchanges of vitriol, bullets and mortar fire.

From the beginning, Indonesia has fixed a very high bar as the 18th Asean chair.

By breaking with the Asean tradition of the chair's rotation system -swapping with Brunei - the world's third largest democracy wants to ascertain other upcoming chairs of major summits, including the G-20, will not face future disruption.

The successful chairing of Asean this year will set a new compass for the country's diplomacy and help to define its role in the region and international community at large.

However, the unexpected eruption of border skirmishes between Thailand and Cambodia in early February and late last month has threatened to derail Indonesia's grand strategy. It has zapped the host's overall energy away from the agenda of an "Asean community in a globalised community of nations." After the UN Security Council referred the border conflict to Asean in mid-February, Indonesia moved quickly to display leadership by facilitating dialogue between the two neighbours and serving as observers to monitor the border and establish a permanent ceasefire.

During the past five weeks, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has been hard at work to have the 30-member Indonesia Observers Team, 15 on each side, on the ground ahead of the upcoming Asean summit. His aborted trip last Monday to Bangkok and Phnom Penh indicated the complexity of facilitating any resolution of intra-Asean conflict. Unknowingly, Marty has entered on a new and untested Asean turf in conflict resolution and reconciliation.

The remaining eight months are crucial to set the Asean house in order. Any spill over to the next chair, Cambodia, would have adverse effects on Asean, as the chair would be a conflicting party. A general election is scheduled in Cambodia next year as well.

For the past 14 years, Asean has been unable to assert any peer pressure on the pariah regime of Burma. It was a bit odd that President Thein Sein would have the audacity to ask their colleagues to rubber stamp his legitimacy by permitting the new administration to host the 2014 chair. As of last week, Naypyidaw had not yet responded to the grouping's overture to dispatch a team of Asean senior officials, headed by the chair, to assess the country's readiness.

Several members have reiterated that the 2014 chair is not automatic and should be further deferred until Burma has agreed to the appeal and fulfilled the Asean charter. The often asked question is: Will Asean put its last stick to good use?

An equally divisive issue is the 11th membership of Asean. Timor Leste informed Asean in early March that it wanted to join the club now — a big jump from the 2015 deadline. Indonesia, Cambodia and Thailand support the inclusion this year while Singapore would like to postpone it for a few years. The lack of consensus raises the spectre that Indonesia's chair has been linked to the speedier admission. The region's most impoverished nation was part of Indonesia until its independence in 1999. Lack of English-speaking human resources and poverty have been cited as key obstacles. Singapore fears it would further delay the Asean economic integration and realisation of the Asean Community.

Timor Leste, the supporters argue, should be integrated soonest within the Asean family despite all the shortcomings. Leaving this young nation alone would be precarious and subject it to non-Asean influence that could be detrimental to the grouping's interest in the future. For good for worse, Asean has already lived through years of ups and downs with old and new members in various Asean cooperative schemes. Some of the new members contend that no conditions should be placed for admission of a new member. Quite unique, however, has been the attitude of Thailand, which sees Timor Leste, a young democracy, as an inspiration for Asean's people-centred community.

More than Asean's leaders would like to admit that Timor Leste's membership could be a test case of new Asean leadership. Ironically, Dili's status will be the weathervane to where the grouping's real leadership is heading. For decades, Singapore was the prime mover and shaker in Asean's pivotal schemes, covering all aspects of activity. However, since the 2003 summit which gave birth to the Bali Concord II, Indonesia, along with its burgeoning democracy, has expanded its vision and influence on the organisation where it used to be a puller.

The outcome of Timor Leste's deliberation will to a certain degree impact on the current chair's ambitions beyond the Asean Community 2015. Indonesia's foreign policy in the past decade has been focused on finding solutions, building understanding and fostering consensus. Jakarta believes that Asean will be able to maintain its creditability and centrality through the establishment of an Asean common platform on global issues. Throughout its history, Asean's members could be quite inflexible when it came to issues that involved their national sovereignty. Asean still has a long way to go concerning collective sovereignty and responsibility. Climate change, nuclear energy and territorial disputes could serve as litmus tests whether the Asean members could adopt common positions and policies on global issues.

The jury is still out whether Indonesia will be able to carry through such a broad and ambitious agenda.

Cambodia recruiting more soldiers to fight against Thailand

via CAAI

Monday, 02 May 2011

BANGKOK, May 1 2011 (NNT) - Major General Hun Manet announced that he would give 1 house and 5 rai of land to anyone willing to become a soldier and fight against Thailand.

Deputy Army Commander General-Major Hun Manet the eldest son of Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that he would give 1 house and 5 rai of land plus a few thousand baht of their normal salary to anyone who are willing to become a soldier and fight against Thailand. This announcement has been broadcast in Sam Rong Province and A-long-weng province.

Meanwhile, Army region 2 spokesman Colonel Prawit Hukaew said that currently the army could not predict when the fighting would stop as Cambodia were now recruiting more soldiers to fight against Thailand. He further said that after the ceasefire agreement there was another breakout of fighting later that night, however, he had called Cambodia and asked for their reason, they said the announcement had not yet reached all of their units and also some soldiers refused to listen to their orders.

Colonal Prawit added that after the conversation, the fighting had lessened, which was considered a good sign.

Thailand is fighting not just a war _ lecturer

via CAAI

Published: 2/05/2011 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

The Thai-Cambodian border skirmishes will be protracted, predicts Rajabhat University academic Boonrueng Katchama in Surin, the scene of the latest clashes.

Mr Boonrueng tells KING-OUA LAOHONG that the border conflict is unlikely to end any time soon because it is not a mere two-country affair.

Do you think any talks between 2nd Army commander Lt Gen Thawatchai Samutsakorn and Cambodia's Lt Gen Chea Mon, chief of the Cambodian 4th Region Army are likely to result in a ceasefire agreement?

Boonrueng: Battling vested interests

A truce in the next couple of months will be hard to achieve. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen wants any talks to resolve the border conflict to be mediated by a third country.

He wants to include territorial disputes over the Ta Kwai and Ta Muen Thom temples in the wider process to settle the conflict.

This is to gain an upper hand in the process. But the whole issue illustrates the blunders committed by both Thailand and Cambodia as well as present and past committees in charge of border demarcation.

The first attempt at demarcation was made in 1867 and the most recent in 1907 during the reign of King Rama 5.

The border once had 73 demarcation posts, but only 40 or so of them can be found now.

Each time the border was demarcated, one side or the other would hand over land, but this was not the same as losing the country's territory.

Since 1907, no further demarcation work has been done.

After the Cambodian civil war, Khmer Rouge soldiers retreated to the Thai border and uprooted the demarcation posts. We didn't pay attention or fight to restore the posts, many of which were lost. Past governments were reluctant to raise the issue because it could put the country at a disadvantage and hurt their electoral support.

Thailand has insisted it is ready to talk and asked Cambodia to stop the fighting. Hun Sen, however, doesn't want to bend. How can the two sides come together?

Hun Sen is taking his usual approach and speaking in way that works in his interest. We want any talks to be bilateral but they want tripartite talks.

If we can't talk to each other, there should be a mediator. It's not just about security, but also national pride. The two countries don't want anyone encroaching on their territory.

Both countries want peace and we must find a middle ground.

In my view, if Cambodia wants a third country to step in, we should let them, because we have nothing to fear.

With a third party involved, we should include the border area near Preah Vihear temple in the talks.

What do you make of the clashes at the Ta Kwai and Ta Muen Thom temples?

Many Cambodian people of Vietnamese descent live on the border in Trat.

Cambodian troops use guerrilla warfare, ambushing our troops.

They fire handguns, then hit us with heavy artillery attacks.

That's more the Vietnamese style of fighting. I believe the soldiers who are really in command are those troops who are descended from the Vietnamese.

The ethnic Cambodian soldiers take a lesser role.

Is there a possibility of all-out war if talks are not an option?

The question before us is, are we fighting only with Cambodia?

We're not. We're also up against Vietnam, China, Japan, Australia and South Korea which have vested interests in Cambodia.

True, these countries are also our friends. But when their interests are at stake, it's not a black and white issue. They will want to protect their interests as well.

Do you see a way out of this problem? Those most affected are the villagers near the border.

Thailand and Cambodia must make some concessions by proposing that the Phanom Dong Rak mountain range dividing the border be turned into a world heritage site, plus the 4.6 square kilometre area as well as the Ta Kwai and Ta Muen Thom temples.

The areas must be co-managed equitably by the two countries if peace is to return. Otherwise, territorial disputes will carry on endlessly.

Troops hammer out ceasefire

via CAAI

Cambodia wants time to collect soldiers' bodies

Published: 2/05/2011
Newspaper section: News

A senior Cambodian military officer has hammered out a ceasefire with Thai troops at Ta Muen Thom temple in Phanom Dong Rak district of Surin province.

Col Neak Vong, deputycommanderof Cambodia’s 402nd Brigade, centre, shakes hands with Thai soldiers after holding negotiations with Col Adul Boonthamcharoen, commander of the 26th Pararanger Military Regiment,on aceasefire atTaMuen Thomtemple in PhanomDong Rak district of Surin province yesterday. NOPPARATKINGKAEO

Col Neak Vong, deputy commander of Cambodia's 402nd Brigade, contacted Col Adul Boonthamcharoen, commander of the 26th Pararanger Military Regiment around 4 pm to seek a ceasefire at the temple ruins of Ta Muen Thom.

After the meeting, both sides agreed to stop fighting and Cambodian troops agreed to move away from an area near the temple ruins.

A Thai army source said Col Neak Vong gave as his reasons for the ceasefire the fact that he wanted to collect several bodies of Cambodian troops killed in gunfire exchanges with Thai troops during the past 10 days, from a forest opposite the temple.

The bodies have begun rotting and giving off a bad odour.

He also told the Thai side that the morale of Cambodian troops has been shaken following the deaths of their fellow soldiers and a shortage of food and weapons, added the source.

After the agreement, Thai soldiers erected ranger flags in orange and green in front of the temple to protect their sovereignty in the area.

A wooden fence was set up at the entrance of the temple, reinforced with barbed wire.

A source said the ceasefire agreement at the operational level was a good sign that the border conflict would end soon.

Cambodian Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said yesterday that one Cambodian soldier was killed in fighting with Thailand yesterday morning.

The two sides exchanged automatic weapons fire overnight and before dawn yesterday round the Ta Kwai and Ta Muen temples, about 14 kilometres from Ta Muen Thom.

The Cambodian soldier was killed by shrapnel from an artillery round, he said.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday said proposals to set up a committee to handle the Preah Vihear temple issue at the World Heritage Committee meetings this month and in June will be submitted to cabinet for consideration tomorrow.

In his weekly television talk show, Mr Abhisit assured the public that state agencies would protect the country's sovereignty even after the House is dissolved this week.

The border situation was showing progress as Thai and Cambodian military authorities were in close contact to prevent the dispute from escalating, he said. Exchanges of heavy arms fire between troops from the two countries had taken place earlier.

But after two rounds of negotiations, troops were now clashing with light weapons only, he said.

Second Army commander Thawatchai Samutsakhon has asked his subordinates to exercise restraint.

Seven Thai troops have been killed and scores of soldiers wounded in the border clashes with Cambodian soldiers, said Lt Gen Thawatchai.

A source said two evacuees taking refuge at a shelter in Prasat district of Surin died after suffering from stress.

Ms Reya Saengtawan, 42, a native of Phanom Dong Rak district, died at the temporary shelter at Nikhom Prasat centre, and Mrs Thong Khantiwong, 76, another evacuee, was taken to a local hospital and died.

The Second Army's front operation centre in Surin said seven Thai soldiers have been killed and 120 others wounded since the border clashes erupted.

The fighting had also killed one civilian, injured seven others, and damaged 11 houses.

1 Cambodian soldier killed in border clash with Thailand: Cambodia+

via CAAI

May 1 2011

PHNOM PENH, May 1 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Cambodian and Thai forces clashed in their disputed border area late Saturday and early Sunday, leaving one Cambodian soldier dead and one injured, the Cambodian military said.

Lt. Gen. Chhum Socheat, spokesman for Cambodia's Ministry of National Defense, said Thai forces fired mortars and launched grenade attacks at Cambodian troops based at Ta Moan and Ta Krabey temples.

The firefight lasted from 8 p.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. Sunday, he said.

Chhum Socheat accused Thai troops of breaking a tentative cease-fire agreed on during truce talks between regional commanders April 28 to 29.

The territories surrounding the Ta Moan and Ta Krabey temples have been one of the flash points in the current border firefight between Cambodia and Thailand that began April 22.