This is default featured post 1 title

Go to Blogger edit html and find these sentences.Now replace these sentences with your own descriptions.

This is default featured post 2 title

Go to Blogger edit html and find these sentences.Now replace these sentences with your own descriptions.

This is default featured post 3 title

Go to Blogger edit html and find these sentences.Now replace these sentences with your own descriptions.

This is default featured post 4 title

Go to Blogger edit html and find these sentences.Now replace these sentences with your own descriptions.

This is default featured post 5 title

Go to Blogger edit html and find these sentences.Now replace these sentences with your own descriptions.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

ASEAN still struggling to close development gap

via CAAI

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Vientiane
Sun, 02/27/2011

Standing along the Mekong riverbank in Vientiane, Laotians can clearly see Thailand’s blistering prosperity compared to their own, with high-rise apartment buildings coupled with concrete housing standing along the river on the other side.

For many Laotians, it’s like watching others enjoy rising prosperity just a hundred meters across the river, but not being able to partake of it themselves, often leading to feelings of frustration.

“It’s just an everyday fact of life to look across the river to see what the Thai people have achieved,” Thongkham, who owns a shop along the river bank, said.

While both countries are members of ASEAN, the regional grouping of 10 Southeast Asian countries, nowhere across the region is the prosperity gap so wide.

While Thailand’s per capita income shot above US$4,700 in 2010, Laos registered only $980. Neighboring both states is Cambodia, with a per capita income of only $700, while the most developed ASEAN state, Singapore, has a per capita income of more than $37,000.

All ASEAN leaders have come to realize the significance of the issue and the lack of efforts to close the gap as the grouping’s economic ministers start their two-day meeting in Laotian capital Saturday.

During the meeting, Indonesia, which this year chairs ASEAN, openly underlined the need for the grouping to do something to lift the region’s poorest nations higher. The plan has the support of other members, especially Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

“Indonesia views that we need to do more to create an equitable ASEAN and closing the development gap between developed members and less developed ones. This is one of Indonesia’s focuses during the meeting and its chairmanship,” Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu, who chairs the ministerial meeting, said.

She expressed optimism that the meeting would result in concrete projects to close the gap.

Indonesian deputy trade minister Mahendra Siregar, who heads the Indonesian delegation, warned that if ASEAN failed to close the gap, those who could not benefit from the grouping’s integration would look for other alternatives to ASEAN.

“Indonesia has the duty of ensuring that everybody benefits from ASEAN. We have proven in the past that not only do we deal with our interests but also help others. How can we become a community if the gap is too large, and if not Indonesia, who else would pursue the issue?” he said.

Many observers have warned that if ASEAN neglected its poorest members then other countries would take advantage, pointing to the dependence of Myanmar and Laos on China, which has invested aggressively in both countries.

One effort that has been launched in improving the economic level of ASEAN’s poorest is the building of roads and railways as part of enhancing the grouping’s connectivity.

“We hope that opening access to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam can raise the standard of living in those countries,” Indonesian Foreign Ministry director for ASEAN economy Rahmat Pramono.

China has been quick to help finance the building of railways from Kumming to Singapore, which will pass through Laos and Cambodia, but many have warned that China’s help was not free, raising concerns that China would obtain economic benefits and political influence in those two countries.

Connectivity is also expected to boost trade among ASEAN members. The ASEAN Secretariat estimates that trade among member states is valued at $400 billion, while ASEAN trade with the world market is worth $1.7 trillion.

ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said that after regional integration and connectivity to non-ASEAN states, the grouping’s trade with the world market should reach $3 trillion by 2015.

Cambodia: Who Ordered the Blocking of Opposition Websites?

Written by
Mong Palatino

via CAAI

Posted 27 February 2011

Last month, an anti-government website was blocked by some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Cambodia. The ISPs later denied that it received an order from the government to ban the critical website. The government also insisted that it is not a policy to block the website of opposition groups. Fortunately, access to the website was restored immediately.

But the issue of web censorship in Cambodia continued to sizzle this month as media groups leaked a letter by government information authorities asking ISPs to censor websites that allegedly harm Cambodian morality and tradition.

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

The government gave conflicting statements on the veracity of the letter. The Ministry continues to assert that web censorship is not being pursued by the government. Here are some parts of the controversial letter:

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

“We found that you are not yet taken an action, so please kindly take immediate action”

“Here below [are the] websites.”

“Again and again, In case of not well cooperation is your own responsibility”

Internet users in Cambodia complained that the mentioned websites have been inaccessible for many times this month. The ISPs blamed it on technical problems.

The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) condemns the reported blocking of critical websites

…the Internet was the only audio or visual media not fully controlled by the government. The censoring of controversial Web sites marks a significant milestone in the march toward a more oppressive media environment

The group also wants ISPs to explain to their customers why they agreed to comply with the government request to censor the websites

Did the government simply make a “request” that ISP providers block certain sites? If so, ISPs owe their customers an honest explanation as to why they have chosen to comply. Hiding behind excuses simply makes them complicit in the censorship campaign. Concerned customers should call their ISPs and demand a legitimate explanation for the ongoing outage of political opposition Web sites. Better yet, all ISPs should decline the government's request and restore full Internet access immediately.

Customers deserve to know whether they are giving their money to a company that is helping to enable a government censorship campaign.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is also worried about the intensifying media censorship in Cambodia.

According to media reports, internet use in Cambodia increased by 500 percent in the past year.

Essex Amphibious Ready Group Arrives in Cambodia for Maritime Exercise

GULF OF THAILAND (Feb. 17, 2011) - Marines assigned to 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s (MEU) Force Reconnaissance Platoon conduct a visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) rehearsal on board USNS 1st Lt. Jack Lummus (T-AK 3011), as a part of exercise Cobra Gold 2011. 31st MEU is currently participating in exercise Cobra Gold, a U.S. and Thai cosponsored multinational exercise designed to improve interoperability between participating nations. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eva-Marie Ramsaran)

via CAAI

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eva-Marie Ramsaran
Posted: February 27, 2011

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia – The The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrive off the coast of Sihanoukville, Cambodia for Maritime Exercise (MAREX) 11 on Feb. 26.

MAREX 11 is a theater security cooperation visit designed to enhance interoperability and improve capabilities of the U.S. Armed Forces and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF).

“The U. S. Navy is always honored to have the opportunity to visit the Kingdom of Cambodia,” said Capt. Bradley Lee, commodore, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11. “Visits such as this help to further strengthen the relationship between our two governments.”

This port visit provides USS Essex (LHD 2) crew members a chance to serve as goodwill ambassadors for the U.S., promoting peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. It also demonstrates commitment to regional partnerships and fosters growing relationships with the Kingdom of Cambodia.

The ARG will embark 60 RCAF personnel to introduce them to humanitarian assistance disaster relief procedures and Essex shipboard operations.

“Essex will conduct shipboard operations such as damage control, navigation and engineering operations with the Royal Cambodian Navy,” said Lt. Justin Jomoto, PHIBRON 11 future operations officer. “By teaching and showing their navy what we do, we give them a perspective of how another navy operates.”

Beachmaster Unit 1 and Assault Craft Unit 1 will be conducting a beach survey to make sure the beach is suitable for landing craft to storm the beach.

ARG Sailors will conduct two community service projects, one at the Goodwill School and the other at Villiage d’enfant de Sihanoukville, an orphanage in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. The Sailors will be able to read and play with the kids.

“Cambodia has also demonstrated a willingness to cooperate closely on counterterrorism, peacekeeping, disaster response, and medical and health related activities,” said Lee.

The 31st MEU medical team and Cambodian medical personnel will provide primary care services, dental care, optometry and ophthalmology for three days at the Al-Mujarharine Islamic Center in Kampong Som. They will be treating medical problems such as hypertension, skin infection, dental problems, vision problems, asthma and more.

Marines will also conduct jungle warfare training, aviation demonstrations, visit, board, search and seizure training while in Cambodia.

Towards the end of the exercise, Essex ARG and 31st MEU will participate in a sports day with local Cambodian citizens and play soccer and volleyball.

Essex ARG is comprised of the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9), amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) and guided missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106).

The Essex ARG reports to Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Richard Landolt, who is forward deployed to Okinawa, Japan.

Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda after the destruction by Thai artillery shells

Scene of the pagoda after the 4-7 February fighting.

By Khmerization
Source: Koh Santepheap

Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda has been a flash point that have caused several deadly armed clashes between Cambodian and Thai troops since July 2008. The pagoda was built in 1998 in the so-called "disputed zone", 2 years before the signing of the 2000 MOU between Cambodia and Thailand which prohibited the construction of any buildings inside the zone. However, Thailand has consistenly demanded that it be dismantled after Unesco had inscribed Preah Vihear temple on 7th July 2008 and after the Thai invasion of the area a week later on 15th July of the same year.

Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda suffered substantial damages by Thai artillery shells during the fighting from 4-7 February. Up to now there is no repair works being done on the pagoda due to opposition from Thailand who warned Cambodia not to repair the damages and due to dangers posed by unexploded Thai artillery shells.

Visitors to the pagoda after the fighting will see a very quiet and sad environment around the pagoda. Visitors will see the damages to the roof of the pagoda caused by Thai bullets or shrapnel from rockets or cluster bombs. The images and statues of the Buddha inside the temple, which had suffered substantial damages, look so sad. The scene of the temple ground look sad and eerie, full of craters left by rockets and potholes left by cluster bombs and unexploded rockets are still littered around the temple compound.

Currently, there are 6 monks still residing at the pagoda, 3 of them are senior monks and 3 are novices plus 6 temple boys. There are no nuns residing at the pagoda because all of them had fled during the fighting of 4-7 February.

Ven. Sun Saing, Abbot of Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda, said the monks have to cook their own food (normally nuns cook for them). Food supplies are donated by generous people from faraway places and from troops based in the areas (normally laypeople around the temple supported the monks with daily food ration). The damages, rubbish and rubble left by the burning from Thai shells have not been cleared because unexploded Thai artillery shells are still littered the temple ground. The abbot said the Preah Vihear National Authority has come to inspect and assess the damages, but he does not know when they will come to repair the damages.

However, Cambodian authority said that they cannot do the repair works around the pagoda straight away because the military situations in the areas are still unstable and because Cambodia wants to the leave the evidences for national and international tourists to see for themselves of the destruction caused by Thai troops.

Unesco special envoy to visit Preah Vihear temple on Tuesday

By Khmerization
Source: RFA

A Cambodia heritage official said that Unesco is expected to provide emergency fund for the repair of damages to Preah Vihear temple caused by Thai artillery shells during armed clashes from 4-7 February.

Mr. Chuch Phoeung, chairman of the Preah Vihear National Authority, said Unesco's special envoy Koichiro Matsuura (pictured) and diplomats from countries that are members of the Unesco Permanent Committee will be flown by helicopter to Preah Vihear temple on Tuesday 1st March to inspect the damages caused by fighting between Cambodian and Thai troops. "According to the plan, on 1st March we will fly the Unesco special envoy (Koichiro Matsuura) and diplomats from countries that are members of Unesco Permanent Committee (to Preah Vihear temple). But I don't know the exact number of diplomats who will be flown there", he said.

Mr. Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said the trip of the Unesco special envoy to Preah Vihear is more of a diplomatic mission than a technical mission. "The visit of His Excellency (Koichiro Matsuura) the representative of Her Excellency (Irina Bokova, Unesco Director-General) is more of a diplomatic mission than a technical mission. As we have known, he is coming to assess the political situation under the obligation of the 1954 Geneva Convention as well as the 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage as well as world heritage sites", he said.

Mr. Koichiro Matsuura is expected to arrive in Phnom Penh this afternoon, 27th February, and is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen and Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, who is in charge of heritage affairs.

Cambodian heritage officials based at the site said during the armed clashes from 4-7 February, Thai soldiers had fired many rounds of 155mm, 130mm, 105mm artillery shells as well 410 rounds of cluster bombs at Preah Vihear temple, causing substantial damages to the temple structures.

The Preah Vihear National Authority said it is expected that Unesco will provide emergency fund for the repair of the temple damages in accordance with the 1972 convention.

U.S warship arrived in Cambodia for naval exercise with Cambodian navy

Pictures by Koh Santepheap Newspaper

Pictures by DAP News

REDD in Prey

2 Thais jailed in Cambodia for espionage decide not to appeal

via CAAI

February 27, 2011

The two high-profile "Yellow Shirt" activists jailed in Cambodia for espionage have decided not to appeal against the verdict of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, the defense lawyers confirmed on Saturday afternoon.

"They have quit the plan to file the complaint to the Court of Appeals against the verdict," one of the two defense lawyers Ros Aun told Xinhua by telephone.

The duo is Veera Somkwamkid, one of the leaders of the People's Network against Corruption and a high-profile activist in the Thailand Patriot Network, and his secretary Ratree Pipatanapaiboon.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court, on Feb. 1, convicted Veera and Ratree of illegal entry, unlawful entry into military base and espionage and sentenced them to 8 years and 6 years in jail respectively.

According to Cambodian law, the duo has one month to appeal, or the verdict will be in effect.

Pich Vicheka, the defense lawyer for Veera, said that the duo is likely, through their Thai government, to ask Cambodian king for royal amnesty.

According to Cambodian law, a prisoner can be granted a royal pardon only if he/she has served two third of the jailed term in prison; however, it is not impossible to ask for the royal pardon, he said.

"It's up to the government of Cambodia if it will ask the King for royal pardon for them or not," he said.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced on Feb. 17 that he would not ask the King for royal pardon for the duo.

"Don't come to persuade me to ask King Norodom Sihamoni for royal pardon, it's impossible at this time.. comply with the law properly--at least serving two third of the jailed term before being considered for royal amnesty," said the premier.

Source: Xinhua

Khmer Rouge victims in U.S. to get their day in court

Survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime and their supporters pray for victims of the regime during a buddhist blessing ceremony at an informational event sponsored by advocates from Applied Social Research Institute of Cambodia (ASRIC) and The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) held at the Wat Khemara Rangsey Temple, in San Jose, Calif. on February 26, 2011. From the background left, Venerable Son Yeong Ratana and Venerable Pok Ngeth conduct the ceremony. (LiPo Ching/Mercury News) ( LiPo Ching )

A video shows Kaing Guek Eav (alias "Comrade Duch") admit his crimes in case 001 of the Khmer Rouge Court at an informational event sponsored by advocates from Applied Social Research Institute of Cambodia (ASRIC) and The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) held at the Wat Khemara Rangsey Temple, in San Jose, Calif. on February 26, 2011. (LiPo Ching/Mercury News) ( LiPo Ching )

At center, Kanphiry Keo, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime, whose parents and two brothers were killed by the regime watches a video on the crimes investigated by the Khmer Rouge court with other survivors and supporters at an informational event sponsored by advocates from Applied Social Research Institute of Cambodia (ASRIC) and The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) held at the Wat Khemara Rangsey Temple, in San Jose, Calif. on February 26, 2011. (LiPo Ching/Mercury News) ( LiPo Ching )

At left, Sophany Bay, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime, whose three children and other family members were killed by the regime speaks to survivors and supporters at an informational event sponsored by advocates from Applied Social Research Institute of Cambodia (ASRIC) and The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) held at the Wat Khemara Rangsey Temple, in San Jose, Calif. on February 26, 2011. From the background left, CJA Attorney Nushin Sarkarati holds a photo of Bay's child and CJA Legal Director Andrea Evans holds a photo of other members of Bay's family. (LiPo Ching/Mercury News) ( LiPo Ching )

Khun Aun, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime, holds a photo of her husband Keo Sophorn, who was killed by the regime at the Wat Khemara Rangsey Temple where survivors, supporters and advocates from Applied Social Research Institute of Cambodia (ASRIC) and The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) held an informational event, in San Jose, Calif. on February 26, 2011. (LiPo Ching/Mercury News) ( LiPo Ching )

via CAAI

By John Boudreau
Posted: 02/26/2011

Many Cambodians have lived the lives of ghosts in Silicon Valley, not seen or heard from much, quietly tormented every day and every night with unbearable memories of the genocide that wiped out entire families -- parents, spouses, children, extended relatives.

Now, finally, some of them will have their day in international court. When the second trial of alleged perpetrators of the Khmer Rouge genocide begins in a few months, members of the Cambodian community in the United States will be represented by attorneys at the proceedings.

On Saturday, about 50 members of Silicon Valley's 10,000 strong sizable Cambodian community gathered at the Wat Khemara Rangsey Buddhist temple in East San Jose to hear about the upcoming trial of four senior Khmer Rouge leaders charged in connection with the deaths of 1.7 million people from execution, torture, starvation and disease from 1975 to 1979.

"For our clients, who have waited so long for this, it can be overwhelming to revisit the past," said Andrea Evans, legal director at the Center for Justice and Accountability, a San Francisco human rights legal group that will represent scores of Cambodians living in the U.S. before the United Nations-backed tribunal.

Sophany Bay, a 65-year-old San Jose counselor, is providing written testimony.

"For more than three decades, I waited to see justice," she said in a statement to the international court. "We are getting old. We want to see justice before we die."

The reason, Bay told a reporter Saturday, is that the nightmares never stop.

"I lost all my family," said Bay, whose three children died, including her infant girl, Pom, after a Khmer Rouge soldier injected something into the baby's head.

"I don't have any siblings," she said. "I don't have any nephews. They killed my whole family."

Bay said she hasn't dreamed in the present ever since. All her dreams, she said, are of the past horrors in her homeland.

The once powerful Khmer Rouge leaders who will stand before the tribunal as early as June are now in their late 70s and mid-80s. The complex trial could as long as last two to three years.

The defendants are Ieng Sary, who was foreign minister; his wife, Ieng Thirith, minister of social welfare; Khieu Samphan, head of state; and Nuon Chea, known as Brother No 2. The top leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998. In the earlier trial, Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, was sentenced to 19 years in prison for the torture and death of at least 14,000 people in the Tuol Sleng prison in the capital of Phnom Penh.

The regime took control in 1975 after the war in next-door Vietnam spread to Cambodia. Khmer Rouge leaders believed they could create a utopian communist society by purging the country of intellectuals, business leaders, government officials and anyone else considered a threat to their revolution.

Approximately 157,500 Cambodians resettled in the U.S. from 1975 to 1994, the vast majority as refugees. Many still suffer serious mental health problems as a result of experiencing torture and witnessing killings of their family members.

In 2009, researcher Leakhena Nou, a medical sociologist at California State University, Long Beach, began documenting the stories of genocide survivors in the United States. She discovered that Cambodian-Americans, like their countrymen, could offer testimony and have legal representation at the tribunal proceedings.

During her research, she discovered that many Cambodians in America experienced the same symptoms of young people living in Cambodia.

"I found the same hopelessness, helplessness and lack of trust in themselves, family and government leaders," Nou said.

Nou's research is deeply personal. Her family escaped the reign of terror because her father, a Cambodian military officer who had been living in Thailand with his family when the Khmer Rouge took over, sensed grave danger when he and others were asked to return. Those that answered the call were executed immediately upon their return or taken to prison and tortured to death.

"The instinct my dad had saved our lives," she said.

The process of retelling stories can, at least in the short run, cause substantial emotional trauma for survivors, said Dr. Daryn Reicherter, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine who treats many Cambodian emigres in San Jose.

"They had this rough patch," he said. But, Reicherter added, "Not one of them had a regret" about their decision to retell their experiences in excruciating detail.

So far, 30 Cambodians living in the United States, including five from the Bay Area, have been chosen as potential witnesses during the proceedings.

Even those who did not provide testimony showed up at Saturday's forum in hopes of finding some solace with knowledge about the upcoming trial. "I am very hurt. I have suffered," said Khun Aun, a 70-year-old widow, her body bent from old age, her arms wrapped around a portrait of her husband.

She wept as she recalled the last time she saw him. The Khmer Rouge led him away with his brothers to be executed. Hands bound, he turned and yelled back at her to take care of their eight children.

But five of their offspring would later die, and Khun was tortured to unconsciousness.

The forum lasted for more than four-and-a-half hours. The elderly Cambodians, faces strained with anxiety, listened raptly to the presentation that was told in English and their native tongue. They were told about Nou's research and heard from the legal team. As they watched videos from the trial of Duch, some gasped softly, others wiped away tears.

At one point, a lawyer asked what they wanted from the prosecution of the Khmer Rouge leaders.

One survivor cried out: "I want my family back."

Contact John Boudreau at 408-278-3496.

Free speech flows along the King's road

via CAAI

The various groups of demonstrators camped out along Ratchadamnoen Avenue have their own goals and political demands, but they all share the same broad boulevard

Published: 27/02/2011
Newspaper section: Spectrum

Bangkok's Ratchadamnoen Avenue doesn't have a Speaker's Corner like London's Hyde Park, but it has also become known as a haven for free speech and an active springboard for political activists. Constructed in 1899, the street has played a key role in defining the country's modern history. Some of the most notable events Ratchadamnoen (meaning King's walk or path) has provided the venue for include the student uprising on Oct 14, 1973, the popular protest against the government of General Suchinda Kraprayoon in May 1992, which led to the infamous Black May crackdown, and the initial phase of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship's (UDD) red shirt rallies last March around Phan Fa Bridge, before the protesters moved on to Ratchaprasong intersection.

another group of farmers, the People’s Movement for a Just Society, are calling on the government to solve problems including land reform.

In the last two weeks more than 6,000 poor farmers have been camped along Ratchadamnoen to make their case for government action on land reform and other issues. Organised as the People's Movement for a Just Society (P-Move), they are calling on the government to solve a list of problems falling into seven major categories.

Also adding vibrations and colour to the historic avenue these days are members of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and the Santi Asoke sect, who set up camp on the boulevard ahead of the farmers' group. On Saturday, Feb 19, thousands of red shirts showed up for their monthly gathering to remember the government crackdown on their group on May 19 last year.

A few days earlier, a smaller group of farmers asking for a moratorium on their debts were camped in front of the Agriculture Ministry's Ratchadamnoen offices. They left on Thursday, Feb 17.

protesting farmers head to Government House to submit a petition calling on the government to help alleviate their debt problems

Further down the road, at the Royal Plaza, a number of people who had just come from the Ratchadamnoen boxing stadium were having a late dinner. One man, a regular at the Muay Thai venue who didn't want to be named, said he had become familiar over the years with the sight of people protesting and sleeping on the street.

"I don't know why they have to ask the government for help. Why don't they try to help themselves? The government has so many other problems," he said, shrugging his shoulders as he continued eating.

Walking down the avenue toward Makkhawan Bridge, a discussion about the Thai-Cambodian border dispute from the PAD's stage could be heard from a long way off.

The PAD's stage is outfitted with sophisticated lighting and communications equipment and the alliance receives the support of a media group.

PAD supporters could see speakers on the high stage from a distance on big-screen monitors. They could also see themselves on screen from time to time.

The arguments remain the same over many consecutive nights, and the well prepared PowerPoint presentations, which invariably take a nationalist Thai perspective on the border dispute, find wide agreement among audience members, many of whom may not have been exposed to other information.

"I really pity Veera [Somkwamkid] and Ratree [Pipatanapaiboon], who have to live in a Cambodian jail cell," said Pinun Chotiroseerani, speaking of the two PAD members who have been jailed for spying and posing a threat to Cambodia's national security. Ms Pinun, the deputy leader of the New Politics Party, said she wants the case to be considered by the International Court of Justice, since she claimed that Veera and his group were arrested on Thai soil.

Ms Pinun formerly focused more on environmental issues, but is now a stalwart in the yellow shirt PAD movement. She travels from her home in Kanchanaburi province to Bangkok almost every day.

"We must give moral support to those who maintain our protest site," she said.

Just a few metres away from the yellow group, where Phitsanulok Road meets Ratchadamnoen Avenue, demonstrators belonging to the Santi Asoke sect sit calmly on the ground listening to a different group of panellists on a different stage, but the discussion is still on the Thai-Cambodian conflict. The Santi Asoke sect is also equipped with good sound and light systems, but the audience is set off from the PAD crowd by their plain, dark blue dress and serene demeanour.

Porndee Imjit has been with Santi Asoke for 14 years. She was laid off after 30 years of employment at the Thai-Krieng textile factory in Samut Prakan, and sought refuge with the sect.

Ms Porndee says she is content with her present life, which is evident in her gentle smile and sweet voice. She stays at Santi Asoke's Nakhon Ratchasima branch.

the Santi Asoke camp is well equipped. Centre left, PAD supporters listen to speakers. Near left, red shirt protesters flood the avenue on Feb 19.

When asked about the word "Neo-protest" written in English on the backdrop of the stage, she said it refers to the unique way that this protest aims to educate the public. "We must be peaceful in solving problems. We need to help those in need. At present, politics is full of lies.

"We must not lie _ we have to speak the truth," she said, adding that she had heard about the farmers' protest at the Royal Plaza but she had not yet gone down there. "I have no idea why they have to be here," she said.

But recently a speaker on the PAD stage expressed concern about farmers near the Thai-Cambodian border.

"We must sympathise with farmers who pay taxes but cannot cultivate their land [because of the conflict]," he said.

In fact, the yellow group don't have to go far to find farmers who have paid land taxes but were evicted from their land. They are gathered on the same road at the Royal Plaza. Some farmers' groups in the border area have asked the PAD and its allies to stop their anti-Cambodia movement so that they can have peaceful lives.

On May 19, the huge crowd of red shirt demonstrators eclipsed all other protests. Rachadamnoen Klang Avenue was a sea of red, from Phan Fa Bridge to Phan Pipop Bridge, and their parked cars filled Ratchadamnoen Nok Road and many other side streets. The main stage was at Democracy Monument, but there were many other focal points with various activities to attract the attention of the wandering crowd.

At the very end of the line at Phan Fa Bridge, pop music was being played loudly and small children dressed in red danced happily. Elsewhere, people blasted music from their vehicles. Vendors came to sell food, T-shirts, plastic sheets to sit on, and many other items. There were also vendors selling pictures of red shirt leaders and key figures, including Thaksin Shinawatra, Natthawut Saikua and the late Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol. One vendor sold piggy banks with portraits of Thaksin and Natthawut. "If you buy a Natthawut piggy bank, your kid will be very clever like him, and if you buy a Thaksin piggy bank, he will be very rich," the vendor said convincingly.

members of the Santi Asoke eating a vegetarian meal. Above, a farmer from Ubon Ratchathani, grills fish, she caught from the Moon River.

There were children as young as three or four, and quite a few elderly people as well. Vasana Preedawongsakorn, 75, came alone. Her Chinese features and costly looking slacks and red lace blouse indicated that she is not prai, as red shirt supporters are often depicted, but she obviously had no problem mingling with the crowd.

"I love Thaksin, that's why I came. My son also joined the red shirts. We joined last March, but we stopped [going to the rallies] after May 14. I think it was too dangerous for us after that," said Ms Vasana. Now she has started attending the red shirt rallies again, coming to Ratchaprasong or Ratchadamnoen from Klong San district.

"We have to join hands, as there is no justice in this country," she said. Asked if she was aware of other groups demonstrating on the road, she said she had ventured down to the yellow group's site to see what they were doing.

"Of course, I put on a different coloured blouse, not red, but not yellow either," she said, adding that she saw only a few protesters when she went.

It is true that the red demonstrators have outnumbered those of the yellow group, but they only come for a day, while the yellows say they are there for the long haul. Both groups grab headlines, while the protest from P-Move's 6,000-strong group of farmers, which has been at the Royal Plaza since Feb 16 has gotten relatively little media coverage. The farmers' groups from all over the country say they are protesting state policies that were implemented without consulting them.

The ambience at the P-Move site is totally different from others on the street. The site looks quite disorganised, with pop-up tents, cooking stoves, water containers, sacks of rice and other food supplies scattered here and there. Some of the protesters are villagers affected by the construction of the Pak Moon dam, who camped in front of Ubon Ratchathani provincial hall for a month before moving their rally to Bangkok. One quipped that they had to be prepared as they know that the mosquitoes in Bangkok are especially fierce.

The farmers' stage is also not as well equipped as the others. It has two medium-sized amplifiers and microphones, but there is no big screen. The protesters speak many different regional dialects, and only a few are comfortable in speaking ''standard'' Thai.

''Sorry, I have to speak the southern dialect now, it is too slow when I have to speak in Central Thai,'' joked Kanya Pankiti, a farmers' leader from Trang province.

Their message is different from those broadcast on the rest of the street as well. They speak not about political philosophies, but about matters of life and death, such as the imposition of state policies that directly affect their means of earning a living and their health, without any attempt to consult them first (see related story).

Also, unlike most of the protesters on Ratchadamnoen Avenue, they have to cook their own food, often from supplies they have brought with them. Wilted vegetables, bananas with dark spots, everything is in bad shape because of the heat.

The UDD group eat their food from styrofoam boxes that are often thrown on the street as there are not enough trash bins to accommodate their waste. The Santi Asoke cook their own vegetarian food, and some of the PAD supporters come by for meals. The food and waste bins are nicely kept.

The PAD has its own food stalls, some operated by vendors and some by supporters who provide meals for free. The queues never end, even late at night.

The farmers eat only simple food, sticky rice with some chilli paste. ''We eat just to survive,'' said Bualai Yothatham from Chaiyaphum.

It is warmer around the Royal Plaza than other demonstration sites because there are fewer big trees and no big tents to offer shade. The farmers tie big plastic sheets between what few trees there are, but only a lucky few can find a place under them.

''This is very unlike my home in Trang, where we have a lot of trees that cover our village. Our village is much cooler in the daytime and at night-time,'' said Pachoen Chusaeng, who cultivates a mixed orchard around his village that includes many tall trees. Ironically, he has been charged with encroaching on state forest land and conducting activities that cause global warming.

Before these farmers organised themselves into P-Move, they had been holding discussions with the government for more than two years under the umbrella of the Thai Land Reform Network. ''I came here because Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva promised us in March 2009 that he would solve all the [land reform] problems within 90 days. For about two years, we have been providing evidence to prove our rights to the land and waiting for him to solve our problems,'' said Surat Thani farmer Soy Chusakul.

Some in the P Move group have been on the activist trail for far longer. The group from Pak Moon has been protesting the construction of the dam for more than two decades. They have a lot of research to back up their demands, including a study from a committee sponsored by the present government, which reveals the adverse consequences of the dam. Sompong Vienchan, a leader of the Pak Moon group, said she thinks more poor people are joining groups like P Move because they feel this government has not given enough attention to their problems nor tried to implement real solutions.

''The general public might ignore our problems because they don't have information, but concerned state agencies and ministers have been provided with formation and evidence that we need help. Why aren't they helping us?'' Mrs Sompong said.

Villagers go on the long march to fight for change

This is not the first time that Prue Odochao, a Thai-Karen from Chiang Mai has used the road as a means to inform the public of his predicament. Mr Prue walked from Chiang Mai's Chiang Dao district to Bangkok in 2003, along with many supporters, to ask the government not to rely solely on aerial mapping to decide the boundaries of a national park. They were asking the government to also take into consideration historic evidence such as graveyards and temples in the area to prove that tribespeople had been living in the area long before the establishment of the national park.

''We didn't want to be evicted from the homes we have been living in for many generations,'' said Mr Prue.

In 1995, Mr Prue and his supporters walked from Chiang Mai to Khun Tan Mountain in Lampang province to ask the Chuan Leekpai government to address the same issue.

Mr Prue said the tribespeople and other poor are ''the other'' in the public's eyes. ''They may not know that their actions and way of life have helped destroy the forest, and when they saw the forest left standing in the area where we live, they thought it was theirs,'' he said, adding that the march might have helped some people along the road become aware that tribal people are the guardians of the forest. But he also learned that some people along the route of the march had good hearts.

''I have seen that they have good seeds in their hearts, but there is something that prevents these seeds of understanding of our plight 'the otherness' to grow,'' he said, concluding that the culprit is the biased and one-sided information that most people receive.

Throughout Thailand, protest marches have been employed as a tactic by the weak and poor to have their voices heard. Sompong Viengchan and her Pak Moon fellows who have been affected by the building of the dam, have been using this method of protest since they started resisting the building of the dam in 1992.

One of the longest marches that Mrs Sompong remembers well was in 2001. It lasted for three and half months, and covered more than 1,000km around the Northeast.

''We, the poor people, don't have the channels of communication to tell our side of the story to our own people, and that was why we chose to march,'' said Ms Sompong, adding that the many people who saw them on television or read about them in newspapers started to question why the Pak Moon people were demanding the sluice gates be opened all year round.

''Nobody could answer them properly. They were told by the authorities that opening the gates would cause problems generating electricity in the Northeast and also waste taxpayers' money,'' she said.

Ms Sompong said that during the long march, people from Pak Moon were able to explain the situation directly to those they met along the route, yet their message did not carry as much weight as that being spread through the media by the powers that be.

Despite protesters being backed up by academic studies and solid evidence of the adverse impact of the dam's construction, last Tuesday, when the issue of the Pak Moon dam was sent to the cabinet, the cabinet simply decided to set up another committee to study the impact of opening the dam's sluice gates.

Ms Sompong and Mr Prue joined 6,000 others from across the country at Royal Plaza in Bangkok. Some had walked from Bokaew village in Chaiyaphum; many came by hired car, the rest used public transport after they had been marching in their

dhrespective provinces.

These groups of farmers and fishermen are part of a new grass-roots movement called the People's Movement for a Just Society (P-Move). P-Move comprises people who are affected by seven main problems, including land, housing and citizenship rights, and they demand the government provide some form of redress.

One of the seven problems has to do with government policies that cannot be achieved, especially the government's communal land rights policy. This policy involves five major ministries, with the spotlight currently focused on the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry. ''Why doesn't the ministry look at the reality? We are not the people destroying the forest, we have been looking after it,'' said Rawat Chuyin, a farmer from Trang province, adding that his group has been presenting information and negotiating for many years without success.

Another major problem is lawsuits against the poor. ''We want the government to look into these problems. Many will be evicted from their own land _ that they have paid taxes for _ and some of us have even had Sor Kor 1 land documents since 1955,'' said Orathai Polpinyo, a leader of Bokaew farmers, who is threatened with being forced off her own land.

There are also a number of cases of land rights conflicts between locals and state agencies or private firms. These cases include people in Ubon Rathathani and Phuket who are backed by the results of a probe by the Department of Special Investigation. A number of such cases have been investigated, and recommendations to resolve their problems were issued by the National Human Right Commission, and in some cases by the Surat Thani court.

Yet despite the hurdles of bureaucratic red tape and the stubbornness of related agencies, Ms Sompong wonders why the government does not use established facts and studies to help it reach a decision.

''Don't we have enough academic studies to legitimise the opening of the dam's sluice gates?'' she asked, adding that if the government only listens to concerned agencies and biased politicians, nothing will change. ''The government needs to have principles in decision making,'' she said, adding that using the information available will solve many other problems as well. ''How many more roads do you want us to walk before you hear our cries.''

Deforestation in Prey Long Forest Area

Indonesian military team visits disputed Thai-Cambodia border area+

via CAAI

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 26 (AP) - (Kyodo)—A five-member Indonesian military team visited the Cambodia- Thai disputed border area on Saturday to pave the way for deployment of Indonesian observers in the region, a senior Cambodian defense official said.

Gen. Neang Phat, vice minister of national defense, told Kyodo News by telephone that the Indonesian advance team visited the ancient Cambodian temple of Preah Vihear and the surrounding area to find a suitable location for deployment, which will be made under an ASEAN- brokered deal.

He said the Indonesians spent several hours in the area and will report back to the Indonesian government, the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Cambodia and Thailand agreed during an ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting in Jakarta on Tuesday to invite Indonesia to deploy civilian and military observers to monitor a ceasefire agreement in the border area.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said Indonesia will dispatch two separate teams to Cambodia and Thailand, each consisting of 15 to 20 military personnel and civilians.

Neang Phat said it is unclear when the observers will start their mission but expressed hope that it will be "soon."

The observer mission will be ASEAN's first since 2005 when the regional group and the European Union set up the Aceh Monitoring Mission to oversee disarmament in Indonesia's Aceh Province following a peace agreement between Indonesia and the separatist Free Aceh Movement.

Cambodia and Thailand have been at loggerheads since 2008 over an area involving 4.6 square kilometers of land near the Indus temple shortly after it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since then several rounds of armed clashes have erupted, the most recent from Feb. 4 to 7. The conflict has left at least 10 people dead, nearly 100 wounded and more than 25,000 people displaced on both sides.

The U.N. Security Council has expressed "grave concern" over the border skirmishes and urged the establishment of a permanent cease- fire.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Skirmish on Thai-Cambodia border

via CAAI

15 February 2011

Two heavily-armed militaries are ranged against each other across a stretch of disputed land

A Thai soldier on the border with Cambodia has been wounded just hours after the UN called on the neighbours to establish a permanent ceasefire.

The two sides have blamed each other for starting the recent hostilities which began with four days of heavy fighting earlier this month.

The clashes left eight dead, displaced thousands and damaged the World Heritage-listed Preah Vihear temple.

The UN has backed efforts by regional grouping Asean to resolve the dispute.

A Thai military spokesman in Bangkok blamed Cambodia for the latest violence, saying hand grenades had been thrown across the border before dawn.

But he appeared to downplay the seriousness of the attack, describing it as a minor incident.

'Maximum restraint'

A hospital official in the border area confirmed to the BBC that one Thai soldier had been injured but he did not know how seriously.

The two heavily-armed militaries are ranged against each other across a 4.6-sq km (1130 acres) stretch of disputed land.

The BBC's Rachel Harvey in Bangkok says the news is further proof of how tense the situation is along the disputed border.

After hearing testimony from the foreign ministers from both countries, the UN Security Council called on Thailand and Cambodia to exercise "maximum restraint and avoid any action that may aggravate the situation".

The council's president, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, said there was "great concern" over the clashes.

Asean will hold a meeting of regional foreign ministers later this month to try to strengthen what is clearly a rather fragile ceasefire, our correspondent says.

Thailand opposes UN mediation, saying it can settled by the two states.

But Cambodia has described itself as being at war with Thailand and has suggested the UN send peacekeepers to the disputed area.

AKP - The Agence Kampuchea Press

via CAAI

DPM Hor Namhong’s Address at the UNSC’s Meeting in New York

Phnom Penh, February 15, 2011 AKP – The following is the full address of Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation H.E. Hor Namhong at the meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Feb. 14 in New York:


Cambodia Hopes to “Avoid Any Large Military Clash” with Thailand

Phnom Penh, February 15, 2011 AKP – Cambodia said here on Monday that the current situation of a cease-fire with Thailand after the border clashes “remains extremely fragile,” but the country still hopes to “resolve the problem peacefully, in order to avoid any large military clash.”

The statement came as Hor Namhong, Cambodian deputy prime minister and minister of foreign minister and international cooperation, was addressing a closed UN Security Council meeting, according to Chinese News Agency Xinhua.

“Even though there were two de facto agreements on a cease-fire, the current situation, however, remains extremely fragile,” he said. “Fresh fighting may breakout again at any time without forewarning.”

Earlier on Monday, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya told reporters here that “There is no reason why there should be the continuation of the conflict (with Cambodia) in the sense that we have all of the bilateral mechanisms to do the border negotiations to look at the border security through our respective defense ministers under the general border committee.”

Earlier on Monday, the Security Council called on both Cambodia and Thailand to display maximum restraint, avoid any action that may aggravate the situation, and to establish a permanent cease- fire.

Also on Monday, Marty Natalegawa, the chairman of ASEAN and Indonesian foreign minister, told reporters here that the Thai- Cambodian border clashes needs to be resolved peacefully, through dialogue and negotiations.

Earlier this month, both Cambodia and Thailand have written to the 15-nation Security Council on the border conflict. The Cambodian-Thai border dispute was also brought before the Security Council after the clashes took place in October 2008.

The border between Thailand and Cambodia has never been fully demarcated. From Feb. 4 to Feb. 7, at least eight people were killed and 67 others were injured in border clashes, reports said.

Although the International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the Temple of Preah Vihear belonged to Cambodia, the row over the 4.6-square-km territory around the temple has never been resolved.

The conflict has occurred just a week after Cambodia’s Temple of Preah Vihear was enlisted as World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008, since then both sides have built up military forces along the border, and periodic clashes occurred, resulting in the deaths of troops on both sides.

Hor Namhong, also in his statement at the closed-door meeting, accused Thailand of “aggression,” saying “Cambodia has exercised utmost restraint and maintained great patience in negotiating with Thailand to resolve the problem peacefully, in order to avoid any large military clash.”

“Negotiations bilaterally have failed, therefore we need one other third parties to have the two party to settle our problem,” Namhong told reporters here after closed door Security Council meeting.

On Monday, the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Office of the Council of Ministers of Cambodia issued a statement rejecting “the false statement of Thai Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva on Preah Vihear temple.”

The statement said that the Bangkok Post on Feb. 11 reported, and which was also published in the National News Bureau of Thailand, that “Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva asks UNESCO to remove the temple of Preah Vihear from the World Heritage List, claiming that the delisting of the temple of Preah Vihear would remove tensions between Cambodia and Thailand.”

The statement “strongly rejected the false statement of Thai prime minister”, saying that the “real tension has been caused by Thailand’s long-standing territorial invasion.” –AKP


Security Council Urges Cambodia, Thailand to Establish Permanent Cease-fire

Phnom Penh, February 15, 2011 AKP – The UN Security Council urged Cambodia and Thailand to display maximum restraint and to establish a permanent cease-fire, the Council President of the month, Brazilian Ambassador to the UN Maria Ribeiro Viotti, was quoted as telling reporters here Monday by Chinese News Agency Xinhua.

The members of the Security Council expressed their great concern about the recent armed clashes, and called on the two sides to display maximum restraint and avoid any action that may aggravate the situation, said Viotti, reading a press statement after a close-door meeting on the border conflict between the two south-eastern Asian countries.

“The members of the Security Council further urged the parties to establish a permanent cease-fire and to implement it fully and resolve the situation peacefully and through effective dialogue,” she said.

Viotti said the Security Council expressed support for the active efforts of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in this matter and encouraged the parties to continue to cooperate with the organization.

She added that the Council welcomed the upcoming meeting of ministers of foreign affairs of ASEAN on Feb. 22.

Armed clashes between Cambodia and Thailand from Feb.4 to Feb.7 had killed at least eight people and injured 67 others. Tens of thousands of villagers nearby the disputed areas had fled their homes.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa who also attended the security council meeting, told reporters it is crystal clear that the issue must be resolved peacefully through dialogue.

“The cease-fire must hold and there must be some kind of modalities and communication system developed to ensure that the cease-fire holds,” Natalegawa said.

The border between Thailand and Cambodia has never been completely demarcated. Although the International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the 11th century Preah Vihear Temple itself belonged to Cambodia, the row over the 4.6-sq-km territory around the temple has never been resolved. –AKP


Thai-Cambodian Border Conflict Has to Be Resolved through Dialogue: ASEAN Chief

Phnom Penh, February 15, 2011 AKP – The border clashes between Thailand and Cambodia that took place on Feb. 4-7 need to be resolved peacefully, through dialogue and negotiations, Marty Natalegawa, who is the chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Indonesia’s minister of foreign affairs, said here on Monday.

“The ceasefire must hold … We must try to solve the problem through dialogue with support of ASEAN’s efforts,” Natalegawa was quoted as saying by Chinese News Agency Xinhua while briefing reporters after a closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council discussing the conflict.

The armed clashes so far have killed at least eight people and injured 67 others. Tens of thousands of villagers around the disputed areas have fled their homes.

Natalegawa said he feels “far more optimistic than before in terms of where we are.”

Answering a question on the UN role in this conflict, Natalegawa said that “first and foremost there needs to be a bilateral solution with the support and the active engagement of the region.”

In the weeks ahead, an all-level type of approach on the issue will be developed, Natalegawa noted.

ASEAN plays a role in terms of diffusing the conflict, he said.

On Feb. 22, ASEAN will hold a foreign ministers meeting in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. –AKP


Club of Cambodian Journalists Holds a Roundtable Discussion with Lawmakers

Phnom Penh, February 15, 2011 AKP – A Roundtable Discussion on “Promoting Freedom of Expression: Liberalization of the Media” was organized here last Friday by the Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ).

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Prach Sim, CCJ secretary general, said this roundtable is an important forum providing more knowledge for Cambodian journalists about the new criminal code and the journalism law.

For his part, H.E. Pen Panha, member of the National Assembly, said media has been playing a key role in strengthening Cambodia’s rule of law.

H.E. Pen Panha also asked the Cambodian journalists to pay more attention on journalism professionalism in order to promote the freedom of expression and the rule of law in the country. –AKP


Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More