Thursday, December 31, 2009

76 Journalists killed in 2009 according to RSF

Écrit par CSH (Cambodgesoir)
Translated by Monikhemra Chao

Hang Chakra, editorial director of the daily Khmer Machas Srok.
© Pring Samrang

As every year, Reporters without borders (RSF) publish an appraisal of the freedom of the press in the world. In Cambodia, if no professional of mass media was killed in 2009, arrests really took place.

In 2009, 76 journalists were killed, that is 16 more than in 2008. Nothing in Philippines, the organization recalls the "30 journalists slaughtered on the island of Mindanao", while they covered the try of an opponent to the local governor to register as candidate for the local elections of 2010. "Having less known international public opinion than big reporters; however, it is these local journalists who pay the heaviest price, every year, to guarantee our right to be informed on conflicts, corruption or destruction of environment", declared Jean-François Julliard, general secretary of Reporters without borders.

In the course of the year, 573 journalists were also stopped. In Cambodia, Hang Chakra, editorial director of the newspaper of opposition, Khmer Machas Srok, was stopped and condemned in one year of prison for articles hostile to the government. But according to the Club of the Cambodian journalists, 31 associates were stopped, but for 29 of them it was about business of blackmail, fraud, theft, or for other offences.

On the number of detained journalists, Africa and Asia would be "shoulder to shoulder ", definite RSF. " On December 30th, 2009, at least 167 journalists are imprisoned in the world. It is necessary to go back up at the beginning of 1990s to find such an important number of journalists imprisoned in the world. Although the special reporter of United Nations on the freedom of expression repeats scores of times that the prison was a disproportional trouble in an affair of press ", points out the press release of the organization.

RSF also notes that 1 456 journalists were attacked or threatened and that 570 mass media was censored.

Blogueurs and "Nets-citizens" were not spared, 151 of them, were stopped and 61 attacking. Censure on Internet carries well, 60 countries practice, among which the Thailand and Vietnam. "In Thailand, a half a dozen of nets-citizens one called out to which or intimidated to have recalled crisis within the kingdom. Simple fact to have put in contact the health of the king and the fall of the Stock Exchange prices of Bangkok, made targets of choice for authorities", raises RSF. As for the "famous Burmese actor Zarganar", this one has another 34 years of prison to be purged, reminds the organization.

For the first time, RSF includes in the balance sheet "the figure of the journalists forced to leave their country further to threats to their life or their freedom". In all, 157 professionals of media were forced to borrow the roads of banishment.

ASEAN-China FTA makes Vietnam-China trade easier and better: VCCI vice chairman

By Vo Mai Nguyen Phuong, Han Qiao

The establishment of the Free Trade Area (FTA) between China and ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) makes Vietnam's trade with China easier and better, said Doan Duy Khuong, Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) here on Thursday.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua here on Thursday, Khuong said that Vietnam, as an ASEAN member, is expecting both opportunities and challenges brought about by the FTA.

Scheduled to take effect as of Jan. 1, 2010, the ASEAN-China FTA includes China and ten Southeast Asian countries namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The FTA is expected to become world's third largest free trade area with a combined population of 1.9 billion and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) close to 6 trillion U.S. dollars.

Khuong said that FTA means tariff reduction and simplification of administrative procedures such as customs and investment licensing. Therefore, Vietnamese products will have better access to the Chinese market and vice versa.

For Vietnam, China has become a leading trade partner as statistic figures show, according to Khuong. In 2009, bilateral trade between the two countries is estimated at roughly 20 billion U.S. dollars. Trading with China has been of great significance to Vietnam so far, said Khuong.

Khuong said that under the FTA scheme, tariff will be lowered, therefore helping reducing the illegal trading along the border between China and Vietnam.

The FTA will also make cooperation among Vietnam, China and other ASEAN members in production of a particular product become easier, said Khuong.

Countries within the FTA can produce different parts of a product based on their strength so that consumers could enjoy a higher-quality but lower-cost finished product. The cooperation in the manufacturing process would not only help businessmen tap the markets of China and ASEAN countries, but also pave the way for them to enter other markets such as the European Union and Africa.

However, FTA brings tougher competition for Vietnamese companies as there are similarities in manufacturing products between Vietnam and the other countries within the FTA.

Level of competition would be different in various sectors, according to Khuong.

Though, competition would do good to both Vietnamese manufacturers and consumers, Khuong said. Competition makes companies have to improve themselves to produce better products and therefore consumers benefit from that.

Next year, Vietnam will hold the ASEAN Chairmanship, Khuong said. The country will make efforts to improve the connection between ASEAN and China and bring cooperation to a new height. Therefore, it would promote the implementation of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area.

Vietnamese Defence White Paper 2009

Pankaj K Jha
December 31, 2009

In his December 22, 2009 speech on the eve of Vietnamese People’s Army (VPA) Day, President Nguyen Minh Triet urged the Army to develop defence industry, improve tactical skills and upgrade weaponry to counter the high-tech weaponry and enhanced military strength of Vietnam’s enemies. Though no particular reference was made to China, the underlying theme was the need to counter the increasing assertion of Vietnam’s bigger neighbour. This was a stark departure from the posture adopted in the defence white paper released two weeks earlier.

Vietnam’s third national defence white paper (the first two were released in 1998 and 2004 respectively) shows its commitment to greater transparency in defence modernization and strategic planning. It clearly articulates the priorities for Vietnam but is quite restrained with regard to outlining policy and strategic plans for the future. The foreword by Defence Minister General Phung Quang Thanh categorically states that

“on the basis of the thorough grasp of the party and the state's guidelines of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation and development in external affairs and the foreign policy of openness, multilateralization and diversification in international relations, the Vietnamese people’s army should enhance defence diplomatic activities; expand and consolidate ties and cooperation with all countries (first and foremost with neighbouring and regional ones, and other major partners etc.), and conduct deepened, effective, stable, sustainable , mutually confident international relations that contribute to the successful implementation of the party and state's foreign policy, and meet the needs of building the Vietnamese People Army (VPA) under new conditions.”.1

The white paper makes only an indirect reference to China on the issue of military strategy, galloping defence expenditure, advanced weapon systems and technologies. It also lays emphasis on the increasing gap in defence capabilities between the major powers and developing countries. The white paper also discusses the issue of natural disasters and non-traditional threats in general.

The 155 page document is divided into four sections. The first section deals with the security situation and configuring the national defence policy. The white paper lists the country’s major achievements in terms of demarcating the land borders and the settlement of maritime borders with China in the Gulf of Tonkin. However, subsequent passages refer to Vietnam’s sovereignty over and security concerns in the South China Sea. The paper cautiously asserts Vietnam’s sovereign rights over the East Vietnam Sea (otherwise known as South China Sea), which includes the Spratly and Paracel islands. It stresses the importance of building national power through resources and people. It categorically abjures joining any military alliances and maintains the policy of not allowing any country to use its military bases for carrying out activities against a third country. Most interestingly, there are repeated references to developing defence ties with all countries through mutual respect, independence and sovereignty. The one striking example of benefits of defence diplomacy has been cooperation between Vietnam’s defence intelligence agency and its counterparts in other countries on strategic and defence issues. The white paper also discusses Vietnam’s role in peacekeeping operations, though here it expresses the need to gain further knowledge about legal systems and legal liabilities in UN peacekeeping operations.

Part two of the defence white paper discusses comprehensive national power including the whole gamut of factors and actors in building the national defence capability. Here, stress has been laid on developing the science and technology base. The white paper also provides details of the functions of the various departments and the role of leaders and their functional responsibilities. There is also a section devoted to the historical timeline of the development of the VPA and how the divisions were constituted during the First Vietnam War. This section also encapsulates the process of reunification of Vietnam in 1975 and the building of a unified country. It also clarifies the conditions under which Vietnam was forced to invade Cambodia.

The white paper also specifies that the strength of the Vietnamese people's Army (VPA) to be about 450,000, with five million reservists. It clearly states that Vietnam’s defence expenditure was Dong 16,278 billion in 2005 (approximately US $0.997 billion) and that it increased to 27,024 billion Dong ($1.8 billion) in 2008. Military expenditure as a percentage of GDP is in the range of 1.8 to 2.5 per cent.

In the defence white paper, an effort has been made to provide information about the various wings of the defence forces. Their areas of operation and responsibilities are also clearly demarcated. While stress has been laid on building the politico-spiritual strength of the personnel, there is no roadmap for providing them with enhanced training. The white paper lays great stress on enhancing the country’s technological capability, developing domestic defence industry and procuring advanced weaponry. It expresses clear apprehensions about the technical depth of the national defence industry and its capability to supply the military with advanced weaponry. A separate section is dedicated for broadening and intensifying international defence cooperation.

The last part of the white paper emphasises upon management of local defence units, strengthening them, training them and building greater awareness about among them about the emerging challenges. The concluding section highlights the need for greater convergence and integration. It also emphasizes the need for developing better relations with neighbours and the importance of striving for peace, democracy and progress in society. The appendices provide information about the country’s defence set up.

While the effort has been commendable, the white paper suffers from a few shortcomings. It falls short of identifying the major external and internal security challenges. While an attempt has been to be more transparent, the white paper does not give any information about the status of weapons, personnel training, and of the defence industry in terms of production. Although the white paper provides a comprehensive overview of the historical developments as well as the need for upgrading the defence forces and making them more efficient, it ignores the importance of network centric warfare and new modes of training like simulation, scenario building and war gaming. And finally, while Vietnam has the political will and national mandate for building strong, powerful and efficient defence forces, in terms of articulation there is a wide gap between perception and projection.

  1. 1. Vietnam National Defence, Ministry of National Defence, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Hanoi 12,2009

Backgrounder: Development of China-ASEAN trade relations

Source: Xinhua

BEIJING, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will establish a free trade zone on Friday to strengthen their trade cooperation and liberalize two-way investment.

The following are some key facts about the development of China-ASEAN trade relations.

China and ASEAN started their dialogue in 1991. With their economic links becoming closer, their trade volume jumped from 6.3billion U.S. dollars in 1991 to 18.44 billion dollars in 1995 and more than 20 billion dollars in 1996.

In December 1997, leaders of the two sides issued a joint declaration at the first China-ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur, establishing guidelines and common policies to build their relationship in the 21st century.

Bilateral trade volume continued to grow, registering 27.2 billion dollars in 1999, 39.52 billion dollars in 2000, more than 40 billion dollars in 2001.

China and ASEAN signed the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation in November 2002, with the aim of establishing a China-ASEAN free trade zone by 2010.

In November 2004, China and ASEAN signed a free trade goods agreement and dispute settlement agreement at the eighth China-ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, capital of the Laos.

In the same year, bilateral trade reached a record 105.9 billion dollars, exceeding the 100-billion-dollar target a year ahead of schedule.

The two sides began reducing tariffs at the start of 2005. In that year, their trade topped 130 billion dollars, more than 15 times the 1991 total.

In 2007, their trade reached a new high, registering 202.6 billion dollars. Last year, it grew to 231.12 billion, maintaining14 percent growth despite the global financial crisis.

So far, China has become the third largest trading partner of ASEAN, while ASEAN has become the fourth largest of China.

The China-ASEAN free trade agreement, covering a combined population of 1.9 billion and a combined gross domestic product close to 6 trillion dollars, will be the world's third largest free trade area.

The free trade area incorporates China and Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Editor: Wang Guanqun

Cambodian-Americans should be represented in the US congress

Dear Editor,

Today, I am making a personal appeal to leniently ask all Cambodian-Americans, and all citizens in general, who are eligible to vote and living in the US cities of Lowell, Lawrence, Mathuen, Dracut, Chelmsford and Tyngsboro to vote for – or donate to – Mr Sam Meas’s campaign for US congress.

Though the United States has one of the largest Cambodian populations in the world outside Cambodia itself, we have never had a voice in the US congress.

I urge all Cambodian-Americans and all American citizens to send Mr Sam Meas to congress to represent that voice which has yet to be heard.
Your vote will make history as it puts the first Khmer-American into the US congress!

To vote Sam Meas into congress means to vote for yourself, your children and your grandchildren. Sam Meas has promised to fight for the Khmer citizens deported from the United States back to Cambodia.

I hope you vote at the primary election on September 15, 2010, and then the general elections on November 2, 2010, if Sam Meas wins the primary.

Please consider making a contribution to his campaign.

Any amount you can afford to help cover the cost of airtime, newspaper advertisements, radio and TV advertisements, brochures and printing, and to hire campaign staff.

Any legal US resident can donate from anywhere in the US.

Donations can be made online at

Vicheka Lay
Phnom Penh

Khmer Krom continue lobby of govt for citizenship, aid

Sen David and Cameron Wells
Phnom Penh Post

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Choav Heng, 56, examines documents from the Vietnamese government regarding his arrest warrant and the resulting violence against his family.

Agroup of 24 ethnic Khmer Krom deported from Thailand earlier this month has resolved to continue seeking government assistance despite being denied refugee status by the UN refugee agency and amid fears that the government may seek to deport them to Vietnam, a rights group advocating on their behalf said Wednesday.

We need safety. i’m afraid the government has a secret plan to deport us.

The group, which has said it fled to Thailand because of persecution and religious repression in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region, was deported to Cambodia on December 5. They arrived Monday at the offices of the local office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees seeking refugee status and assistance with food and housing.

A UNHCR spokesman confirmed Wednesday that they were unable to help because of a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on December 17 that made issues related to asylum seekers the sole responsibility of the government.

Ang Chanrith, executive director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organisation, said the group will continue to write letters to the government and commune chiefs in a bid to garner a response.

“The group now knows the UNHCR’s position,” he said. “They will wait to see if the response letter is negative or positive. If it is positive, they can live [here]. If it is negative, they can take the letter back to the UNHCR and say, ‘Look, we have nowhere to stay."

Ang Chanrith added that the NGOs currently providing shelter for the group could not continue to do so indefinitely, but could only do so “for another one to two months”.

Thach Soong, 49, a Khmer Krom representative for the group, said Wednesday that the group still fears being sent back to Vietnam.

“We need safety. I am afraid the government has a secret plan to deport us.”

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Wednesday that no such plan exists.

“They have enough rights,” he said, adding that as ethnic Khmer Krom, they possess the same general rights as anyone of Khmer ethnicity.

“The government cannot find land and shelter for them because many other citizens do not have land or shelter either. The asylum seekers must realise that the right for asylum is no longer under the authority of the UNHCR,” Khieu Sopheak said.

Poor Cambodians face eviction under new law: report


A new law in Cambodia has given authorities legal grounds to seize private property for public development projects

PHNOM PENH — Hundreds of poor communities in the Cambodian capital face potential forced evictions after parliament this week passed a controversial law, rights groups warned Thursday.

Lawmakers on Tuesday voted through a law on expropriations which will give the authorities legal grounds to seize private property for public development projects in Cambodia.

The law still needs to be approved by the senate and promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni, but it has raised concerns from rights groups about a surge in forced evictions.

"The existence of a law on expropriation which was just recently passed... will create more negative effects on the poor people in the city," the rights groups said in a joint statement.

The statement said there were 410 vulnerable communities of urban poor in Phnom Penh, with 74 of them threatened with eviction.

"These (74) communities have already received notifications from the government authorities that ordered them to voluntarily move away from their homes with little compensations, the groups said.

The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, the Housing Rights Task Force, and the NGO Forum on Cambodia also said they had "deep concern about potential forced evictions of urban poor people from their communities in the near future".

The Cambodian government has faced mounting criticism for a spate of forced evictions throughout the country over the past few years at the hands of the army and police as land prices have risen.

Cambodia in September ended a World Bank-financed land-titling programme amid increasing property disputes and allegations of land-grabbing.

Land ownership is a controversial problem in Cambodia, where legal documents were destroyed under the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s and civil war that ended in 1998.

Let light shine on repatriation of Hmong refugees


St. Paul is the center of Hmong-American culture in the way that Boston was home to first-generation Irish-Americans. So we feel tremors from the latest incident on the Lao-Thai border as if it happened in our own backyard.

The government of Thailand has uprooted 4,000 to 5,000 Hmong from a Thai refugee camp and sent them back to Laos. The diplomatic euphemism for such an act is "forced repatriation." The BBC reported that the Hmong arrived in Laos this week. Little is known of their fate.

The Hmong are the hill-dwelling tribal culture that saw it in their own interest to side with the U.S. in the Southeast Asian wars a half-century ago. In Laos, the Hmong joined the CIA-directed "Secret War" aimed at preventing a communist takeover and protecting U.S. troops fighting in the public war across the border in Vietnam.

Laos fell to the communists along with Vietnam and Cambodia in May 1975 and the Hmong began fleeing, usually via Thailand to the U.S. as refugees. St. Paul and the region became a national center of Hmong resettlement. While Hmong Americans prospered in Minnesota, those left behind in Laos faced terrible persecution and hardship at the hands of the victors.

Thailand, itself a poor country, was inundated with refugees after the war and understandably has wanted to move on. This latest action, affecting refugees living in Petchabun Province, has been denounced by the U.S. State Department, the U.N., European nations and human rights agencies.

Thailand argues that most of the Hmong are not war refugees but asylum-seekers who want a better life. The government of Laos says the Hmong will not face sanctions when they are returned.

There is no way to find out if either statement is true. On Monday, as the Thai army moved in on the camp, a local reporter, Doualy Xaykaothao, told National Public Radio that reporters were kept away from the camp as the operation took place. Doualy said independent observers have not been able to interview the Hmong to determine how many are war refugees who have a legitimate fear of returning.

And the Lao People's Democratic Republic is a rigid communist society that does not allow international observers. Its borders are closed — to its own citizens. It is impossible to find out what happened to Hmong people who have escaped from Laos and been "repatriated" in the past. Consider this report from Amnesty International, the human rights group, on a repatriation of 1,700 Hmong people from Thailand earlier this year.

"Many returnees went through a transit centre in the town of Paksan, Borikhamsay Province. According to state-controlled media, authorities 'educated' the returning Hmong in the ideology of the Communist Party. Many were resettled in the newly constructed Phalak village, Kasi District in Vientiane Province. Others were sent back to their home provinces. It was unclear whether the choice of resettlement site was voluntary. No independent monitoring was allowed."

In other words — who knows?

That is why state Sen. Mee Moua and state Rep. Cy Thao, Hmong-American St. Paulites who escaped Laos with their families after the war, are so concerned.

Moua said in a statement that "international law could not be clearer that the involuntary return of persons entitled to protection is inconsistent with precedents and international agreements established in the wake of World War II." She adds that "refugees and asylum-seekers cannot be forcibly returned to countries where they could face persecution and death." Thao told this newspaper: "I fear for political refugees the most.''

The U.S. cannot police every trouble spot. But it remains a beacon of freedom and can reflect this light on dark places on the planet. St. Paul is a city that was enriched by the diaspora of the Hmong and Lao people after the war. We join in the widespread international demand that Thailand and Laos open up this action to international monitors and allow eligible refugees to leave Laos peacefully.

Government urged not to let 'boat people' in

By Fergus Black
Thursday December 31 2009

THE government was advised against accepting refugees from Indo-China because of the state of the economy -- three years before the first group of Vietnamese "boat people" arrived in Ireland.

By 1976, thousands of displaced Indo-Chinese refugees were looking for new homes following upheaval in South Vietnam and Cambodia. Ireland had already accepted over 100 Chilean refugees who were victims of political repression.

But according to Department of Foreign Affairs documents, there was no "domestic public outcry" to accept Indo-Chinese refugees -- apart from an interest in adopting Vietnamese orphans.

"Given our current economic circumstances, very high unemployment with shrinking markets and our continuing commitment to successfully settle our Chilean refugees in the midst of these difficulties, the practical case for accepting Indo-Chinese refuges at present is very weak," wrote one official.

"Economic upswing and higher employment may cause us to reconsider such a request at a future date."

But by August 1979, the situation had changed and the first group of so-called Vietnamese boat people arrived under a major resettlement programme.

- Fergus Black

Irish Independent

Border provinces exchange work experience

Vietnam Net

A delegation from the Cambodian province of Kratie on December 28 held talks with leaders of the Binh Phuoc Provincial People’s Council, highlighting developments and cooperation in the region.

During the meeting, leaders from the border provinces expressed delight at the growing friendship and multifaceted cooperation between Vietnam and Cambodia in general and between Kratie and the southern province of Binh Phuoc in particular.

They agreed that authorities of both provinces have incessantly strengthened bilateral relations by exchanging delegations on a regular basis, signing cooperation agreements and working together for the implementation of border landmark plantation as agreed by the governments of both countries.

They have also facilitated entry and exit procedures for people from Binh Phuoc and Kratie to travel across the shared border.

Kratie is a north-eastern province of Cambodia that borders Vietnam to the south.

Arrest warrant issued for Cambodian opposition leader


Phnom Penh - A Cambodian court has issued an arrest warrant for the leader of the main opposition party after he failed to appear in court earlier this week, a government spokesman confirmed Thursday.

The move follows an incident in October in which opposition leader Sam Rainsy was accused of removing border markers between Cambodia and Vietnam, an act that riled Hanoi.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the Svay Rieng provincial court issued the arrest warrant after Sam Rainsy missed the hearing to answer charges of racial incitement and destruction of property.

'He was meant to show up in court on the 28th [of December],' Phay Siphan told the German Press Agency dpa. 'He is out of the country so they issued a warrant on the 29th.'

Sam Rainsy was charged after he had joined villagers in Svay Rieng province and uprooted several wooden posts marking the border.He was stripped of his parliamentary immunity the following month in a vote that was boycotted by the opposition.

Opposition party spokesman Yim Sovann said Sam Rainsy, who is currently in France, would not return to Cambodia until a political solution to the court case was in place.

'We do not trust the court because it is a political tool of the ruling party to crack down on the opposition,' he said, adding that the opposition would petition the king to resolve the issue.

'Sam Rainsy has done nothing wrong - as a member of parliament he has to represent the people,' he said. 'This is a political problem and [it] must be solved by a political solution.'

Yim Sovann blamed the authorities for planting the demarcation poles without consulting local farmers, who object to losing land to Vietnam.

'So now [the farmers] are losing land because of these demarcation poles - the people do not agree with that because they have only a few hectares of land to feed their families, and now they are losing everything,' he said.

The two nations are currently demarcating their 1,270-kilometre long common border in a process that is scheduled to be completed by 2012.

Vietnam is a key investor in Cambodia with significant interests in agribusiness, aviation, telecoms and banking. In December the two nations signed an agreement that could result in investments worth billions of US dollars, including a deal to look for bauxite in Cambodia's border province of Mondulkiri.

Three opposition parliamentarians were stripped of their parliamentary immunity in 2009. Critics charge that the ruling Cambodian People's Party is using the courts to move against its perceived opponents in politics, the media and civil society.

Cambodia's dengue fever death toll sharply falls this year


PHNOM PENH, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- The number of reported cases of dengue fever rose in 2009, but fatalities significantly fell from 2008 due to improved public awareness, local media reported on Thursday, citing health officials.

Ngan Chantha, director of dengue control at the Health Ministry, was quoted by the Cambodia Daily as saying that there were 11,625 cases of dengue fever and 36 deaths from the disease this year, compared to 9,245 cases and 65 deaths last year.

"We intervened by disseminating information through the media, spraying mosquito insecticide and training doctors and nurses to help dengue victims properly."

"People understand the disease and how dangerous it is, but they still don't change their behavior," he said, referring to the need to keep homes free of places where mosquitoes can breed.

Most of this year's dengue infections occurred in high-density areas in provinces including Kompong Cham, Kandal, Siem Reap and Kampot, as well as the capital Phnom Penh, Chantha added.

Doung Socheat, director of the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control, agreed with Ngan Chantha that this year's decrease in fatalities was due to improved awareness and public health education on how to treat the disease.

Public health authorities will concentrate on decreasing further the number of both dengue infections and fatalities in the coming year, Socheat said.

Editor: Anne Tang

Sri Lanka not aware of plan to appoint Thaksin as adviser


Sri Lanka on Thursday denied a report that the government planned to appoint fugitive ex-Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser.

Thaksin's brother-in-law Somchai Wongsawat claimed on Wednesday that Colombo will name Thaksin as an adviser to the government.

Colombo-based Daily Mirror online quoted Sri Lanka's Deputy Finance Minister Sarath Amunugama as saying that he is not aware of any such move.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Somchai:Thaksin to advise Sri Lanka

Bangkok Post

Sri Lanka, an island country in South Asia, is in preparing to appoint former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra its economic adviser, former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat revealed on Wednesday.

Mr Somchai, Thaksin's brother-in-law, said the government should not worry because Thaksin's role as adviser to Sri Lanka, as well as to Cambodia, would do no harm to Thailand.

Thaksin has already been appointed economic adviser to the Cambodian government and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Sri Lanka is one of the countries where Thaksin was reported to have frequently visited while on the run after being sentenced to a two-year jail term in the Ratchadapisek land case.

FM Kasit urges PM Hun Sen to consider Thai-Cambodian relations as priority


BANGKOK, Dec 30 (TNA) - Thailand's Minister of Foreign Affairs Kasit Piromya on Wednesday urged Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to show concern for better long term relations between the two kingdoms by not getting involved with convicted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Kasit said as long as PM Hun Sen has cordial relations with the fugitive ex-premier and sets this amicable relationship as his standpoint in bilateral relations, Thailand cannot accept the condition.

"Neither I nor Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva have any personal conflict with Mr Hun Sen and Mr Thaksin," said the Thai foreign minister, "I have known Mr Hun Sen for over 20 years and know his style of working very well, so I don't want Mr Hun Sen to get involved with the convicted ex-premier for the sake of good bilateral relations."

Mr Kasit reiterated that Mr Thaksin is a fugitive, wanted by the Thai authorities, and that he has undermined Thai society and continues even now.

Ousted by a bloodless coup d'etat on September 19, 2006, Mr Thaksin fled the country over one year ago before the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions sentenced him to a two-year jail term for malfeasance in regard to the controversial Bangkok Ratchadapisek land purchase case.

The diplomatic row between Thailand and Cambodia flared up after the Cambodian government appointed the fugitive ex-Thai premier as its economic adviser and personal adviser to Mr Hun Sen.

The Thai government recalled its ambassador to Phnom Penh in retaliation, while Cambodia then withdrew its ambassador to Bangkok.

The Cambodian government also refused to extradite Mr Thaksin as requested by Thailand and arrested a Thai engineer working at Thai-owned Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS) on charges of passing privileged information on the flight details of Mr Thaksin during his first visit as advisor to Cambodia to a Thai diplomat.

The Thai employee was sentenced to seven years jail and fined Bt100,000 (US$3,000) but later was released following a royal pardon granted by the Cambodian king.

The Cambodian premier was recently quoted in foreign media as saying he is unhappy as long as Thai premier Abhisit and Mr Kasit are still in their posts. (TNA)

Dams, mines fouling water, say villagers in Stung Treng

30 December 2009
by Vong Sokheng
Phnom Penh Post

Photo by: Daniel Lanctot
Villagers fish on the Srepok River in Stung Treng province. A report this week says dams and mining are polluting the river.

SEVERAL thousand villagers living along the Sesan and Srepok rivers in Stung Treng province are facing a severe shortage of rice and clean water as a result of polluted runoff from hydropower dam developments and mine explorations, local representatives and environmental activists warned Tuesday.

“We think there are about 50,000 residents in the area, and many of them have already complained about the water becoming muddy, with red,
white and blue colours,” said Tek Vannara, programme manager for the Culture and Environment Preservation Association.

A report released by the Sesan-Srepok-Sekong (3S) Rivers Protection Network on Sunday attributed the water’s pollution to hydropower dams located on the upper reaches of the Sesan, both on the Vietnamese and Cambodian sides, and added that mining activities could also be responsible for the recent spike in pollution.

“The closing and opening of the existing hydro-dams in Vietnam, the ongoing construction of other dams, together with gold-mining explorations and other mining activities of companies upstream, both in Vietnam and Cambodia, have caused the current pollutions of the Sesan and Srepok rivers,” the report stated.

Bai Thong Nhuth, a representative of communities living along the two rivers, said the Sesan has been muddy since October, whereas the Srepok’s waters started getting dirty last November. He said he has already submitted an appeal for intervention to local authorities.

“There could be serious consequences for communities along the rivers because they use the water for drinking and cooking. We are worried that epidemic diseases may spread,” he said, and added that at least three communes in the area face imminent relocation because they cannot access clean water.

Nou Savath, a 48-year-old villager from Bangbong village along the Sesan River, said that residents and environmental groups have noticed negative effects downstream from the Yali Falls dam, on the Vietnamese side of the border, since at least 2002.

“I have faced difficulties and uncertainties for almost seven years now. Floods of muddy water kill pigs, cows and damage rice fields every day. No one is taking responsibility for this,” Nou Savath said, adding that this year he could harvest only 30 percent of what used to be an average rice yield on his 2 hectares of land.

Hak Vimean, deputy director of the Stung Treng provincial Department of Environment, said that he has submitted a report on the matter to higher authorities.

“The muddy waters are not caused by development projects in our provincial territory. The pollution may be coming from projects upstream. We are conducting an investigation on the issue, but there is no result yet,” he said.

Misbehaving monks scolded at national religious congress

30 December 2009
Khouth Sophakchakrya
Phnom Penh Post


Photo by: Heng Chivoan

Monks chant as Senate President Chea Sim enters the stage at Chaktomuk Theatre in Phnom Penh on Tuesday to open the 18th National Monk Congress.

SENATE President Chea Sim has called on Cambodia’s supreme patriarchs to reel in wayward monks following a spate of violent incidents this year involving religious figures.

“The role of monks is very important to educate the social morality of the people,” Chea Sim said in a speech before 800 monks and nuns at the 18th annual National Monk Congress, which opened Tuesday at Chaktomuk Theatre.

“But monks themselves must have a Buddhist’s morality to encourage the national religion.”

Chea Sim urged officials at the Ministry of Cults and Religions to “reinforce the good governance” of Buddhism to ensure peace in the Kingdom.

“The teachings of the Buddha are the light that will educate the people about morality and allow our country to develop peacefully,” Chea Sim said.

“The discrimination, jealousy and violations in social society are caused from indifference to religious belief and are seriously damaging.”

In recent months, however, several monks appear to have strayed from the path, with allegations of murder, sexual relationships, alcohol consumption and rape directed at a handful of monks.

Min Khin, the cults and religions minister, acknowledged that authorities were concerned about the allegations. He blamed incidences of bad monastic behaviour on “globalisation”, which he said causes some people – including monks – to make mistakes.

“We know that some monks have committed sins such as killing, rape and violence,” Min Khin said. “But hopefully, the three days of this National Monk Congress will improve monks and encourage them to reinforce the good governance of Buddhism.”

Min Khin said monks must play an integral role in building Cambodia’s developing society.

“The monk’s role is not only to pray or spread the teachings of the Buddha, but also to build roads, schools, hospitals and to protect our … national culture.”

Cambodia’s Great Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong sidestepped questions over incidences of bad behaviour among individual monks, except to say that all Cambodians should follow the law.

“I think that Buddhists and all people who live in Cambodia must respect the law and other national and international laws,” Tep Vong said. “The monks must respect all laws … to eliminate suffering, jealousy, violence and social discrimination.”

In October, 11 monks in Siem Reap province were defrocked following an all-night alcohol-fuelled bender after shocked villagers demanded that the monks be punished. Later that month, two monks in Phnom Penh were arrested after allegedly beating a medical student to death after the victim chastised them for drinking.

According to Min Khin, the country currently has 4,392 pagodas, 1,370 Buddhist schools and 54,764 ordained monks.

Community life of relocated Tibetan herders

December 30, 2009

Picture taken on Dec. 25, 2009 shows two boys in an ecological migrant village in Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, China's northwest Qinghai Province, riding bikes on the grass in front of their homes. (Xinhua Photo)

The Sanjiangyuan area, located in the hinterland of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, southern Qinghai Province, is the source area of three big rivers.

They are: China's two biggest rivers the Yangtze and Yellow and a major international river of Asia the Lancangjiang (Mekong) that winds through Myanmar, the Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Starting from August 2005, the Chinese government planned to grant 7.5 billion yuan (1.1 billion U.S. dollars) for an ecological protection and construction project in the area which covers three Tibetan autonomous prefectures, namely Yushu, Huangnan and Guoluo of the Qinghai Province.

The project involves such protection and construction measures as restoring grazing land to grasslands, restricting livestock breeding, relocating herders and controlling desertification.

So far, 2.7 billion yuan (0.4 billion U.S. dollars) has been used on the project and more than 50,000 herders relocated in township communities.

Source: Xinhuanet

Vietnam, Cambodia tighten professional court cooperation


Vietnam and Cambodia will promote the exchange of professional skills, judicial experiences and related investigation documents between their courts.

A memorandum of understanding was signed by the Cambodia Supreme Court (CSC)’s Judge Dith Munty and the Supreme People’s Court of Vietnam (SPCV)’s Chief Judge Truong Hoa Binh, who is on a five-day official visit to Cambodia.

Under the MoU, Vietnam will help train Cambodian court staff. Both sides pledged to enhance the provincial courts’ cooperation through professional exchange and mutual assistance in investigation and dealing with cases related to both sides.

During talks earlier, Chief Judge Binh and Judge Munty discussed measures to further enhance professional cooperation between the two judicial agencies.

While in Cambodia from December 26-30, Chief Judge Binh was received by Prime Minister Hun Sen and President of Cambodia’s Constitutional Council Ek Sam On.

Cabinet resolution on Preah Vihear Temple cancelled by court order

The Nation

The Central Administrative Court on Wednesday ruled to nullify a Cabinet resolution under the Samak Sundaravej government related to the Cambodian registration of Preah Vihear Temple as a World Heritage Site.

Last year the Samak government authorised its foreign minister Noppadon Patama to sign a memorandum of understanding related to the overlapping borders surrounding the temple.

The People's Alliance for Democracy cried foul on the ground that the MOU and its attached map would tantamount to conceding the Thai territory to Cambodia.

A group of 13 PAD complainants filed an administrative lawsuit seeking to nullify the authorisation for signing the MOU. They also sought and received the court injunction to put the Cabinet resolution and the MOU on hold pending the completion of judicial review.

In the verdict, the court ordered the cancellation of the Cabinet resolution after finding that the Samak government failed to follow the procedures prescribed for international negotiations impacting on the borders.

Under the Constitution and relevant laws, such negotiations must be done under the legislative scrutiny. But the Samak government bypassed Parliament and tried to push through the MOU without consulting with the Council of State.

The Nation

ASEAN-China open free trade area

By Stephen Coates (AFP)

JAKARTA — China and Southeast Asia establish the world's biggest free trade area (FTA) on Friday, liberalising billions of dollars in goods and investments covering a market of 1.7 billion consumers.

Eight years in the making, the ASEAN-China FTA will rival the European Union and the North American Free Trade Area in terms of value and surpass those markets in terms of population.

Officials hope it will expand Asia's trade reach while boosting intra-regional trade that has already been expanding at 20 percent a year.

"In 2010 we are sending a strong signal that ASEAN is open," H.E Sundram Pushpanathan, of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), told AFP.

China has just overtaken the United States to become ASEAN's third largest trading partner, and will leap Japan and the EU to become "number one" within the first few years of the FTA, said Pushpanathan, Deputy Secretary-General for the ASEAN Economic Community.

Under the agreement, China and the six founding ASEAN countries -- Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand -- are to eliminate barriers to investment and tariffs on 90 percent of products.

Later ASEAN members, including Vietnam and Cambodia, have until 2015 to follow suit.

Zhang Kening, the director-general of the department of international trade and economic affairs in Beijing, said the average tariff rate China charged on ASEAN goods would be cut to 0.1 percent from 9.8 percent.

Average tariffs imposed on Chinese goods by ASEAN states will fall to 0.6 percent from 12.8 percent.

ASEAN-China trade has exploded in the past decade, from 39.5 billion dollars in 2000 to 192.5 billion last year, Pushpanathan said.

At the same time, ASEAN-China trade with the rest of the world has reached 4.3 trillion dollars, or about 13.3 percent of global trade.

Teng Theng Dar, chief executive of the Singapore Business Federation, said sectors likely to reap the most benefits from the FTA included services, construction and infrastructure, and manufacturing.

"Other than product and service innovations, this is one great new business opportunity for the establishment of a regionally-based innovative supply chain for market reach and growth," he said.

Officials said there was more to the deal than sating China's thirst for Asian raw materials like palm oil, timber and rubber, and opening up regional markets for its manufactured products, steel and textiles.

"China and ASEAN countries are all export-oriented economies. A large proportion of our products target the US and EU markets... Generally neither side took the other's market as its most important target market," Zhang said.

"But with the establishment of the China-ASEAN free trade zone, we think there is potential to improve or adjust this situation... Both sides have many goods that complement each other's needs."

Not everyone is happily singing the free-trade anthem, however.

At the 11th hour, industry groups in Indonesia, Southeast Asia's biggest economy, and the Philippines are frantically pressing their governments to keep tariffs on vulnerable sectors until 2012.

"These sectors aren't ready to compete with imported Chinese products. If the government implements free trade now, these industries are surely going to die," Indonesian lawmaker Airlangga Hartarto said.

He cited 12 sectors including textiles, petrochemicals, footwear, electronics, steel, auto parts, food and drinks, engineering services and furniture.

"For example, a local sack for sugar, rice and fertilizer costs about 1,600 rupiah (1.70 dollars) each. A Chinese sack costs about 800 rupiah each," he said.

Indonesian Footwear Association chairman Eddy Widjanarko said Chinese firms would take their share of the Indonesian market to 60 percent from 40 percent, costing some 40,000 local jobs.

Indonesian Furniture Producers Association executive director Tanangga Karim blamed the government for failing to level the playing field, and called for non-tariff protection in the form of strict safety and quality controls.

"We have to admit that we aren't ready to compete now with imported Chinese products," he said.

Pushpanathan conceded that some local businesses would struggle.

"In the short term there will be some adjustments that some countries have to make. Some local companies will lose their domestic market share but ultimately consumers will benefit," he said.

Sivarak to return to work in P.Penh

Bangkok Post

Sivarak Chutipong, the Thai engineer convicted of spying in Cambodia and then pardoned, said on Wednesday that he plans to return to work at Cambodia Air Traffice Services in Phnom Penh.

He entered the monkhood after his ordeal and return to Thailand, and spent eight days at Satthatham forest temple in Muang district of Nakhon Ratchasima province, returning home on Monday.

Mr Sivarak and his mother, Simarak na Nakhon Phanom, yesterday went to Nakhon Phanom to pay homage to the Buddha’s relics at Phra That Phanom temple and to thank Puea Thai MPs from the province for helping obtain his release.

Mrs Simarak also thanked former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra via his younger sister, Yingluck, for his assistance. She also plans to visit the Puea Thai Party to thank the opposition camp for helping her son.

Mrs Simarak said she was not worried about her son’s plan to return to work in Phnom Penh because Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had assured her that Mr Sivarak could stay happily in Cambodia.

US says may impose anti-dumping duties of up to 145 percent on Chinese steel grating

December 29th, 2009

US weighs duties on Chinese steel grating

WASHINGTON — The Commerce Department says it may impose anti-dumping duties on imports of Chinese steel grating, saying it has been sold in the U.S. for up to 145 percent below its normal value.

Chinese companies have been assigned preliminary duties ranging from 14 percent to 145 percent, the department said. It said it would make a final ruling in April.

The department defined steel grating as two or more pieces of steel joined by any assembly process. Imports of steel grating from China rose over 500 percent by volume from 2006 to 2008, when they were valued at about $91 million, the department said.

China and the United States have simmering trade disputes over market access for goods ranging from steel pipes, poultry and tires to Hollywood movies.

Iran surviving 2010 day by day

Iran surviving 2010
Iran surviving 2010
Google Images
December 29, 2009
LA Political Buzz Examiner
Stuart Rowlands

Ladies and gentlemen-for the defense the sovereign nation of Iran charged with threatening the United States of America, its western allies, all the members of NATO, Israel, and of course its neighbor Iraq . The prosecution on the other hand is made up of most of the nations who already own weapons of mass destruction including the USA, Great Britain, France and Israel and who categorically refuse to let Iran build its own nuclear arsenal because, they say, Iran is a danger to us all. Iran incidentally has few allies either inside the Middle East or without with the exceptions of the Palestinians, Pakistan, possibly North Korea and when it suits them – the Russians.

The Western Allies are determined to prosecute Iran before the world court of opinion as the harborers of terrorism and the most likely country to attack anybody at any time. Again, according to the Western Allies Iran is the only rabid terrorist nation currently on earth, conveniently forgetting both Pakistan, India and North Korea are/were in breach of UN sanctions for developing weapons of mass destruction, testing missiles, selling enriched uranium and/or centrifuge technology and that the 9/11 Al Qaeda operatives were in fact Saudi Arabian. Plus the fact that Iran hasn’t invaded anybody in the last 50 odd years which is more than can be said for the Western Allies led by the USA who have invaded Vietnam, Granada, Panama and Somalia plus bombed the heck out of Cambodia and Kosovo.

The Western Allies daily seek to present an open and shut case of Iran’s intimidation of their neighbors by trying to prove that Iran is providing money and arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan, funding Sunni opposition to the Shiite led government in Iraq and harboring Al Qaeda - all of which is likely but unproved. They are reinforcing their opposition by promoting a worldwide publicity campaign via the headlines of major daily newspapers, focusing on huge civil unrest in Iran (and possibly funding it) hoping that it will cause a regime change toppling Iran’s supreme leader the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his handpicked President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. All the while continuing to follow the policies that began under President Obama’s predecessor George Bush and Britain’s former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The Western Allies are also hoping that World opinion will forget the US backed coup which toppled Iran’s last democratically elected government way back in 1953. This of course ushered in one of the most oppressive regimes in Middle East history led by the Shah who promptly set about imprisoning 30,000 of his closest enemies sadly leading to the 1979 Islamic revolution whose followers rule Iran today. In other words the Western Powers who are trying to convince a jury of their peers in World opinion that the current state of Iran is not their fault and the Iranians have no reason to fear anybody.

Iran on the other hand has its own problems with convincing world opinion that it is basically harmless especially as it does not have direct access to Western media. Its reasons for wanting a nuclear option or even a hi-tech military make a lot of sense when their position is viewed on a map. They are in fact surrounded by enemies. On its western border lies its old enemy Iraq still hosting nearly 120,000 US military since 2003 and on its eastern border yet another US led Western Allies coalition is fighting the Taliban and Al-Qaeda since 2001.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On Christmas day, five Uyghurs sentenced to death for their role in Xinjiang’s July protest


Trials were held on 22 and 23 December but were not reported by Chinese media. Eight people got life in prison and four were sentenced to ten years and more. The authorities announce more trials. Beijing wants to pursue its crackdown on Uyghurs but keep it a secret from the world.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Five more Uyghurs have been sentenced to death for their role in protests that broke out in Xinjiang, but Chinese authorities have tried to keep the news from both domestic and international media.

“Altogether 22 defendants in five cases went on trial December 22- 23,” Hou Hanmin, director of the Xinjiang Government Information Office, was quoted as saying.

Ma Xinchun, a representative for the Urumqi city government, confirmed that five people were handed death sentences (with a two-year suspension). Eight defendants were given life in prison, whilst four more were handed sentences of 10 years or longer.

There is no information about who these people are but, according to Radio Free Asia, their names appear to be Uyghur.

Hou did not elaborate on the charges that led to the convictions and sentencing, but they all appear related to the July 2009 unrest. He did say that they were published by Xinjiang newspapers; however, since July internet has been blocked in the province and local newspaper websites cannot be accessed from outside.

Protests broke in the capital Urumqi on 5 July as a result of rising interethnic frustrations between indigenous Uyghurs and Han Chinese settlers. The latter have become a majority in Xinjiang and monopolise key political and economic positions thanks to an immigration policy pursued by the central government that provides them with a number of incentives, economic or otherwise, in order to move to the province.

Protests started out peacefully (pictured, the 5 July demonstration) but turned into interethnic clashes that pitted Muslim Uyghurs against Han Chinese. This was followed by two days of retaliatory attacks by ethnic Chinese. The official death toll stands at about 200 dead and thousands of wounded.

With the latest sentences, the number of death penalties handed down in connection with the riots has risen to 22, of which at least nine have already been carried out.

In the meantime, official sources announced more trials against people accused of masterminding the protests.

Similarly, Cambodia announced last week that it was going to send 20 Uyghurs back to China. They had fled Xinjiang after the protests and applied for refugee status at the UN representative’s office in Phnom Penh.

This decision meets Beijing’s demands but has been severely criticised by the United States.

Last week, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping signed a number of agreements worth US$ 1.2 billion during a visit to Cambodia. They include money for road building and the restoration of Buddhist temples.

Metfone provides 2,000 free connections to Cambodia


The Vietnamese Metfone Company signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport in Phnom Penh on December 29 to provide 2,000 free connections to Cambodian schools.

Metfone will offer free Internet connections and related equipment worth US$5 million to all State-owned schools, educational centres, universities, colleges and the ministry’s offices. In addition, it will present scholarships to hundreds of outstanding Cambodian students and pupils.

The project will be divided into three phases: in the first phase, Metfone will provide Internet connections to 300 schools and the ministry’s offices in 24 provinces and cities, and 334 computers and 10 virtual private networks to the ministry’s offices in Phnom Penh.

In the second phase from 2010-2012, Metfone will present Internet connections and computers to 500 more schools and 193 more district’s educational departments. In the third phase from 2013 to 2015, Metfone will complete the project.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Cambodian Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, Im Sethy reaffirmed that the project will accelerate the application of information technology to his country’s educational system and the development of human resources.

Cambodian parliament passes controversial land law


PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia's parliament passed a controversial law on Tuesday allowing the government to expropriate land for development, raising concerns about a surge in forced evictions in the Southeast Asian country.

The National Assembly, which is dominated by the ruling Cambodian People's Party, voted to allow the authorities to seize land to develop infrastructure and pursue other projects deemed to be in the public interest.

Critics and opposition lawmakers said the legislation was vaguely worded and were concerned it would be abused to evict people from prime real estate.

"It will leave even more room and a legal framework to take away land," said opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua.

Land ownership is a controversial issue in Cambodia, where legal documents were destroyed and state institutions collapsed under the Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s and the civil war that followed.

A period of unprecedented growth since 2004 has boosted land prices, particularly in the capital, Phnom Penh, leading to a jump in the number of evictions and triggering fierce criticism of the government from aid donors.

In September, Cambodia said it was pulling out of a project sponsored by the World Bank aimed at settling land disputes, adding to international concern about the livelihoods of tens of thousands of impoverished city dwellers.

Eang Vuthi of land rights group Bridges Across Borders said civil society organisations had been hoping for a law that would help to prevent forced evictions by clearly stating when land expropriation was justified, but they failed to get changes made to the draft legislation.

"We wanted them to clarify the language," he said. "This law won't benefit the people. It will benefit only powerful people."

Government spokesman Phay Siphan described the law as a major step in the country's development.

"Nothing is perfect in this world," he said. "The law is a milestone for the country, a turning point. We have never had such a law before."

(Reporting by Jared Ferrie; Editing by Alan Raybould and Alex Richardson)

Khmer Krom in limbo: rights group

29 December 2009
by Cameron Wells
Phnom Penh Post

Photo by: Bun Tharum
The youngest members of the group of Khmer Krom asylum seekers speak to reporters outside the offices of the UN refugee agency in Phnom Penh on Monday.

ARIGHTS group on Monday accused the government of ignoring the plight of 24 Khmer Krom asylum seekers as they approached the United Nations a second time in a last-ditch effort to secure protection from Vietnamese authorities.

Ang Chanrith, executive director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organisation, said the group needs a formal letter from the Ministry of Interior to confirm their ethnicity in order for local authorities to process the group’s request for asylum. Several letters sent by the group to the ministry asking for assistance, however, have gone unanswered. “The government has ignored this case,” Ang Chanrith said.

Under existing laws, Khmer Krom should be immediately recognised as Cambodian citizens, but the group has been kept in a holding pattern since it arrived in Cambodia on December 5 after a bid for asylum was rejected by Thailand.

“I am not happy,” Ang Chanrith said. “The government should comply with existing laws. [It] needs to say whether they can or cannot stay.”

The 1996 Law on Nationality states that anyone of Khmer nationality is a Khmer citizen and cannot be exiled or extradited to any foreign country unless there is a mutual agreement.

The group – many of which are children, some as young as a year old – face increasing hardship as the weeks roll by. Thach Soong, 49, said: “I’m very concerned since the government sent back the Uighurs to China. I want the government to consider us as victims.” The group first wrote to the government on December 13. Since then, food and money supplies have dwindled.

Ly Thyleuy, 46, wept on Monday as she spoke of the conditions the Khmer Krom endured in Vietnam. “After two days outside Phnom Penh, we are here now, and it has been terrible,” she said. “When I talk about this, I feel horrible. [Vietnam] tortured us. If we go home, they will kill us because we asked for freedom here.”

Persecuted by the Vietnamese government, she and her family fled to Thailand but were deported to Cambodia on December 5. “We want the [UN refugee agency] to help us to have freedom of religion,” she said. “The freedom to hold our own ceremonies. My children are very young, and Vietnam wouldn’t allow them to go to school.” Another member of the group, 11-year-old Chao Dara, said he wanted to stay in Cambodia.

“Because my parents keep moving, I cannot go to school,” he said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak confirmed Monday that the ministry had received the letters, but said the case was “difficult”.

“There is a request for land, but it is hard to compare to the hundreds of thousands of Cambodian workers who struggle to work, many of whom have no land,” he said, adding that there were no plans to deport the group.


ADB loans target rural stimulus

29 December 2009
by Soeun Say
Phnom Penh Post

Deals signed include funds for financial intelligence unit.

DEVELOPMENT projects worth more than US$90 million are set to give Cambodia’s economy a boost following a loan agreement signed by the government and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Siem Reap late Sunday.

Minister of Finance Keat Chhon approved the deal, which will see the establishment of three projects partly funded by $65 million in ADB loans and grants.

The schemes include a $55.3 million poverty-reduction and smallholder development project, first announced in December, to help 2.5 million rural people from Kampong Cham, Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces.

The ADB is also providing $30.7 million in loans and grants to improve agricultural productivity. The International Fund for Agricultural
Development (IFAD) and the government of Finland are to contribute a combined $19.1 million, and the Cambodian government is to put $5.47 million towards the project.

Another $24.5 million ADB grant is to go towards a $27.52 million vocational and technical training project to address the country’s shortage of skilled workers by training the rural unemployed and laid-off garment factory workers.

An additional $10 million ADB loan will promote economic growth and enable Cambodia to be more resilient in the face of world crises. The project includes setting up a financial intelligence unit in the National Bank of Cambodia to combat money laundering.

Keat Chhon said the three agreements were not only crucial in improving the livelihoods of the poor around the Tonle Sap basin, but also for strengthening Cambodia’s market-based financial system and private sector – which he said was the engine of economic growth.

“These three projects will help Cambodia to better respond to the global financial crisis,” ADB country director Putu Kamayana said at a press conference. “We hope that by boosting the income of poor families in rural areas, parents will be able to send their kids to school rather than having them work to supplement their family incomes.”

The bank’s new investment in Cambodia comes as Prime Minister Hun Sen inaugurated a newly paved 150-kilometre road between Siem Reap and Poipet on the Thai border Monday.

It is hoped the new highway will boost tourism and trade ties with Thailand.

Hun Sen's vanity

The Nation (Thailand)
Publication Date: 29-12-2009

As the Thai-Cambodian dispute continues, Asean may have to step in to mediate.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen should know Thailand as well as anybody, having experienced and dealt with more than a dozen Thai prime ministers. He said shamelessly the other day that the Abhisit government was planning a coup to topple him. Also, that Thailand wanted to wage war on Cambodia. He cited an alleged confidential briefing paper from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, claiming there was a Thai strategic plan against his country to unseat him. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was quick to deny that there is any such plan.

Hun Sen should know for a fact that the person who is really capable of toppling him is his recently appointed economic adviser -Thaksin Shinawatra. In the early 1990s, everybody knew that Thaksin, as a business tycoon, was involved in a short-lived plot to dislodge Hun Sen because of a conflict of interest over mobile telephone contracts.

At the moment, both Hun Sen and Thaksin are wedded in a marriage of convenience because they can use each other. They also have a common enemy - Abhisit. But the Thaksin-Hun Sen relationship will not last. Sooner or later, it will unravel for all to see.

Abhisit is right in saying that the Cambodians will find out the truth behind a series of idiotic political conspiracies. Only a halfwit would believe the comments concocted by Pheu Thai MP Jatuporn Promphan.

When that time comes, Hun Sen will have a lot of explaining to do to his people. Obviously, at the moment, this is not possible because the media in Cambodia have been gagged by the government. Hun Sen may be riding on Thailand's back to boost his popularity, but the problem with this kind of person is that the truth will catch up to them. As Abraham Lincoln said, "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time."

Despite the ongoing political conflict, people-to-people contacts between the two countries continue without any disruption. Thai tourists have returned to Cambodia for the festive season after many tour cancellations. This is good news, as it suggests that the spitting contest between these dull politicians has a limited bearing on the people of the two kingdoms; people who have more in common than they do differences. As neighbours, the people-to-people aspect of our bilateral ties is very important. It should not be determined and shaped exclusively by our respective governments.

At the moment, any positive movement in Thai-Cambodian relations will have to wait because neither side is willing to climb down. On the Cambodian side, the stakes get higher every day, as Hun Sen has bet on Thaksin's political ascension and his promise to reward Hun Sen if he returns triumphantly to Thailand. On the Thai side, Abhisit remains firm in his position on diplomatic protocol and practice. He is likely to stay on, albeit with the threat of disturbances by the Thaksin-backed red shirts.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has been briefed by the conflicting parties since mid-November, continues to monitor the current tension between the two countries He has yet to make any move to mediate in the conflict. The dispute and Hun Sen's personal involvement are an important issue that Asean, under the new chair, Vietnam, will have to discuss.

Hun Sen's growing power, as well as his arrogance, has jeopardised the regional grouping's solidarity. If Asean is really a rules-based organisation, since the Asean Charter came into force, then Hun Sen should be the first Asean leader to be reprimanded because he has thus far broken all the rules of good neighbourliness and Asean customs.

India-ASEAN to meet soon over service trade


SME Times News Bureau
29 Dec, 2009

India and the 10-nation Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc have agreed to meet for a series of talks over the next seven months to reach a deal on opening up services trade, after opening up of merchandise trade.

"Negotiators will meet here from January 12-16 to take forward the talks on services trade," reported a news agency citing a senior Commerce Ministry official who added that more interactions are scheduled for March, April, May and July.

So far, two rounds of negotiations have already taken place in this regard.

After more than six years of intense negotiations, India in August had signed a crucial Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the ASEAN for duty-free import and export of 4,000 products, ranging from steel to apparel to sugar and tobacco, over a period of eight years.

However, a section of Indian industry had argued that the ASEAN countries would benefit more than India from the FTA and the imbalance could be corrected only through enlargement of the agreement to include not only goods but services and investments also

The pact on trade in goods under the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement will come into effect from January 1, 2010, and is committed to begin breaking duty barriers on goods.

The services sector contributes over 55 per cent to India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). "We are interested in most of the services in ASEAN, including banking and insurance," the official said.

The ASEAN region is a net importer of services and it imported nearly $180 billion worth of services in 2007.

Commerce Ministry official was quoted to say that India wants more access for its professionals in ASEAN nations like Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. There are a lot of opportunities for professionals in these nations in the areas of information technology, English teaching, medicine and architecture.

Even though the FTAs do not provide immigration, they make it easier for the services professionals to acquire business contracts. Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are the 10 members of the ASEAN.

Thailand defies protests to deport asylum seekers

By Tim Johnston in Bangkok
29/12/ 2009

Thailand began to deport more than 4,000 ethnic Hmong asylum seekers back to Laos yesterday, defying pressure from the UN, the US and human rights organisations that say the group could face persecution on their return.

About 5,000 troops and officials entered the Hmong camp in Thailand's central Petchabun province in the morning to load residents on to buses to take them over the border, a process that a military official said might take 24 hours.

The Thai government said the communist authorities in Laos had given assurances that the people would be well treated and given amnesty. But the migrants say they are at risk from discrimination because they backed the US during the Vietnam war.

Many were soldiers or relatives of soldiers who fought in a secret army set up by the US both to try to cut supply lines to communist forces in south Vietnam, and to fight Laotian communists who eventually took over the country in 1975. Hundreds of thousands fled Laos after the communist takeover.

Colonel Thana Charuwat, who led the operation, said 2,100 residents of the camp had agreed to leave voluntarily and the army was trying to persuade the rest, but the authorities blocked media access and mobile phone connections to the camp, making it difficult to confirm his comments.

By evening, Human Rights Watch reported the camp had been emptied and 130 people judged to have resisted removal had been put in police trucks to be handed direct to the Laotian military at the border.

The US and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees urged Thailand to suspend the deportations. "We deeply regret this serious violation of the international humanitarian principles that Thailand has long been known for championing," said the US state department.

Panitan Wattanayagorn, a Thai government spokesman, said Bangkok was also planning to deport 158 Hmong who have been held for three years in a detention centre. This group, whose members have been identified as being in -danger by Bangkok, were being interviewed by representatives of Australia, Canada, the US and the Netherlands, with a view to giving them permanent sanctuary.

"Our plan is to send them back to Laos and that within a month they should be sent out to the third countries," Mr Panitan said.

The Thai government has denied international access to residents of the larger Hmong camp in Petchabun, insisting they are economic migrants rather than political refugees.

"Based on the evaluation of our officers, these people are illegal immigrants," said Mr Panitan.

But the UN High Commissioner said the Thai authorities originally informed them that some of the Hmong did need protection.

Médecins Sans Frontières, the Frenchcharity, was working in the camp until May when it pulled out, saying the army was trying to use its food and medical distributions to encourage the Hmong to return to Laos.

Amnesty International said some women and girls who were sent back in 2005 were detained for 18 months and another group of six, who returned at the same time, were still unaccounted for.

In the past, tens of thousands of refugees from Burma and Cambodia were given sanctuary in Thailand, but a year ago, the army was accused of towing back out to sea hundreds of Burmese refugees who had arrived by boat, leaving them with inadequate food and water. human rights groups say hundreds died.

Border provinces exchange work experience


A delegation from the Cambodian province of Kratie on December 28 held talks with leaders of the Binh Phuoc Provincial People’s Council, highlighting developments and cooperation in the region.

During the meeting, leaders from the border provinces expressed delight at the growing friendship and multifaceted cooperation between Vietnam and Cambodia in general and between Kratie and the southern province of Binh Phuoc in particular.

They agreed that authorities of both provinces have incessantly strengthened bilateral relations by exchanging delegations on a regular basis, signing cooperation agreements and working together for the implementation of border landmark plantation as agreed by the governments of both countries.

They have also facilitated entry and exit procedures for people from Binh Phuoc and Kratie to travel across the shared border.

Kratie is a north-eastern province of Cambodia that borders Vietnam to the south.