China official plays down yuan shift

Sunday, November 15, 2009

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Chen Jian on Sunday played down talk of a shift in the central bank's currency policy as well as mounting expectations of a rise in the yuan's exchange rate. Speculation that China might let the yuan resume its climb after a 16-month pause swirled after a change last Wednesday in the long-standing wording used by the People's Bank of China to describe its currency stance.

China official plays down yuan shift

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Chen Jian on Sunday played down talk of a shift in the central bank's currency policy as well as mounting expectations of a rise in the yuan's exchange rate.

Speculation that China might let the yuan resume its climb after a 16-month pause swirled after a change last Wednesday in the long-standing wording used by the People's Bank of China to describe its currency stance.

In its third quarter monetary policy report, the central bank failed to refer to keeping the yuan "basically stable at a reasonable and balanced level" when discussing the outlook for the exchange rate.

Asked whether the PBOC was heralding a return to the gradual appreciation of the yuan against the dollar seen from July 2005-July 2008, Chen told Reuters: "I don't think the central bank meant to say that."

Chen, however, said the yuan should reflect movements in major international currencies, which was also part of the PBOC's policy formulation.

China is coming under growing international pressure to let the yuan rise. Its manufacturers have been gaining market share at the expense of rivals in countries whose currencies have risen against the falling dollar, to which the yuan is pegged.

But, speaking on the sidelines of a forum, Chen said his ministry was not worried about rising appreciation expectations.

Turning to China's trade, Chen said there was only a small chance that exports would resume year-on-year growth by the end of 2009.

Many private economists, by contrast, expect positive growth in November or December because of the low base of comparison in 2008. Exports in October were 13.8 percent lower than a year earlier.

Chen also said a leap in China's trade surplus to $24 billion in October from $12.9 billion in September did not constitute a new trend.

(Reporting by Aileen Wang and Alan Wheatley; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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No double-dip US recession

The pace of the recovery in the US economy remains sluggish but Mr Strauss-Kahn does not believe there will be a double-dip recession. -- PHOTO: AFP

THE International Monetary Fund's managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, said on Friday the pace of the recovery in the US economy remains sluggish but he does not believe there will be a double-dip recession.

He also said China's economic stimulus is helping to rebalance its economy towards relying more on domestic demand but it still needs to let its currency rise over time.

In October, the IMF raised its US growth outlook to 1.5 per cent in 2010 but Mr Strauss-Kahn said that forecast could be on the pessimistic side.

'Our forecast has that, not only in the United States but also for the rest of the world, 2010 will be a year of recovery,' Mr Strauss-Kahn told a news conference in Singapore where he was attending an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meeting.

'I must say, in some respects, we had been a little pessimistic because growth has resumed a little earlier than expected, by one quarter or so.'

He said the dollar had remained resilient throughout the global crisis but most Asian currencies were undervalued and reiterated calls for the Chinese yuan to be revalued. 'China's economy in the coming years will be focused on domestic growth and the value of renminbi will have to be increased,' he said. -- THOMSON REUTERS
READ MORE - No double-dip US recession

Times coverage: Funeral held for Melody Ross, 16

Chantha Ross, right, puts a rose on the casket of her daughter, Melody. As the three-hour funeral service ended, other mourners also placed roses there. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times (California, USA)

The Times' Ruben Vives reports from Saturday's funeral for Melody Ross, a 16-year-old Cambodian American teen who was shot and killed Friday, Oct. 30, in the 4400 block of East 10th Street in Long Beach while leaving her high school's homecoming football game. Tom Love Vinson and Daivion Davis, both 16-year-old black males, have been charged as adults in her slaying, which authorities say was gang-related. From the report:

Melody Ross, the Wilson High School honors student whose shooting death after a Long Beach football game touched off an outpouring of sympathy from around the country, was buried Saturday in Whittier.

A hushed throng of family members, friends and dignitaries gathered at SkyRose Chapel at Rose Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary, where her first name was spelled out in a collage of photographs taken over the 16 years of her life.

A slide show was screened above her open wooden casket, set amid wreaths of flowers. Nearby, a Wilson football helmet, a Gatorade bottle and a football sat on marble stands, each bearing signatures of those who knew her.

Looking over the crowd, Melody's uncle, Sam Che, 36, said he was touched by the expressions of love for his niece. He pointed to a photograph of Melody and gently said, "Look at her smile."
Read the complete story: Funeral held for Melody Ross, teenager shot after high school football game
READ MORE - Times coverage: Funeral held for Melody Ross, 16

Cambodian AIDS orphans have good plans for future

By Zhang Ruiling

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 16 (Xinhua) -- They are a hidden population, living with HIV/AIDS at a very young age. What we do know is that they are very vulnerable. It is this state of being hidden that puts AIDS orphans at special risk during their lifetime.

But those living with HIV in Cambodia are lucky. They live in the National Borey for Infants and Children, a state-run orphanage located in the suburb of the capital city Phnom Penh, which is supported by the government and humanitarian agencies.

"The center accommodates more than 100 orphans, among them 27 are living with HIV, and Sei La is one of them," Sani, a teacher at the center, told Xinhua while pointing at the boy who was orphaned at an early age when his parents died of AIDS.

Sei La is a typical Khmer boy with brown skin. He looks happy and healthy. He said he had just returned from school.

"How old are you, Sei La? Do you know China?" we asked.

"I am 15 years old now. I know China, it's a big country with a lot of people," Sei La answered with a shy smile.

"I am happy here. I have friends here and the teachers treat us like mothers. I study in the Khmer language school in the morning, and in the afternoon I go to English school," he continued.

"I have been working here for nearly 25 years. I love these poor children, they are just like my own sons and daughters," said Sani. Her warmth for these children is reciprocated, as Sani's proteges respectfully call her "Mama."

Sani told us that Sei La was a clever boy, and that he worked part-time in a small restaurant in the city every Sunday.

"Just clean dirty dishes, set tables, and serve as an assistant," he said.

"The payment is little, just 3,000 riel (about 0.73 U.S. dollars)," he admitted. "I only want to earn some pocket money, so I can buy some snacks and sometimes repair my bicycle, but first of all, I want to gain some experience for seeking a good job in the future."

When talking about the HIV/AIDS disease, Sei La looked calm while replying that he knew he was infected with HIV.

"I was very scared at first and hated my parents, but after I learned about HIV/AIDS, I know if I keep taking pills and do some exercise, the disease can be controlled," he explained.

We have reason to believe that Sei La has already overcome his fear and public prejudice, and learned how to stand on his own two feet.

On the playground, we saw a group of children playing frisbee and some girls playing on the swirls.

"I like here very much," Nani, a five-year-old girl, said while riding a bike in the yard.

Enjoying the sight of little boys and girls giggling and running around, one can hardly imagine that this is an orphanage and that these lovely children are AIDS orphans. At that moment, we gratefully realized that poverty and illness would never prevail over the purity of a child's mind, and that these children's aspirations for living and learning would rise above these impediments.

Mak Phanna, director of the National Borey for Infants and Children of the Department of Child Welfare in the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation, told us that the Royal Government of Cambodia always paid great attention to children, especially the disabled and orphans infected with HIV. In effect, the government has adopted a law on HIV and AIDS, which went into effect in 2002.

Cambodia diagnosed the first case of HIV in 1993, and HIV prevalence in the country peaked at 3.7 percent in 1997. Chhim Sareth, director of the AIDS Health Foundation, Cambodia Care Organization, said Cambodia had one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the region, but the good news was that the rate was decreasing every year.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates that 75,000 Cambodians live with HIV, but the prevalence of the virus among the population halved to 0.9 percent between 1998 and 2006. The measures taken by the government include publicity campaigns and education to raise understanding of HIV/AIDS. Also, a condom campaign, offering free HIV tests, has made some progress.

"It is unfortunate for these children to suffer this illness. However, it is very fortunate for them to have received various assistance. Through much support, these children have attended elementary school without paying any tuition, and have received treatment and medicines free of charge," Phanna said.

We also have high hopes for these children and wish them a happy and healthy life.
READ MORE - Cambodian AIDS orphans have good plans for future

Hun Sen defiant on Thaksin role

Updated November 16, 2009 13:46:37

In Thailand 15,000 People's Alliance for Democracy members rallied over the weekend to denounce convicted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Relations between Cambodia and Thailand hit another low last week after Mr Thaksin began his role as an economic advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen. It's led to the recall of diplomatic staff by both countries, and a Thai extradition demand for Mr Thaksin, that Cambodia has turned down. Mr Thaksin's begun his new job with a pledge to regenerate the Cambodian economy, saying that will be good for both Cambodia and Thailand. But analysts say all he'll do is to deepen fractured relations between the Asian rivals even further.

Presenter: Matt Conway
Speakers: Hun Sen, Cambodian Prime Minister; Thaksin Shinawatra , forer Thai Prime Minister; Andrew Walker, Senior Fellow at the Department of Political and Social Change with the Australian National University
READ MORE - Hun Sen defiant on Thaksin role

Thai-Cambodia border trade reviving

SA KAEO, Nov 15 (TNA) – Cross-border trade at the Thai-Cambodian frontier in Sa Kaeo’s Aranyaprathet district on Sunday showed a gradual return to normal after convicted former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra left Cambodia.

At Aranyaprathet’s Ban Klong Luek border crossing, trade activities at Rong Klua market were lively as most Cambodian traders from Poipet resumed their business activities in the area.

Border tensions eased after Thailand’s fugitive ex-premier flew out of Cambodia's Siem Reap on Saturday.

Many Cambodians were following Cambodian media reports on Thursday’s detention of a Thai engineer by Cambodian authorities in Phnom Penh on charges of spying on Mr Thaksin.

Local Cambodian market talk suggested that the issue could be a trivial matter which will affect bilateral relations to the extent that the Aranyaprathet border crossing would be closed.

Regular Thai gamblers, meanwhile, begin returning to hit the casinos in the neighbouring country.

The atmosphere in on the border in Si Sa Ket province, on the other hand, is still worrisome.

Both Cambodian military and traders along the border of Thailand’s Si Sa Ket province and Cambodia are still concerned about rumours of the closure of the Chong Sa-ngam border crossing.

Anxieties led to Cambodians crossing the border Sunday to stock up on dried Thai foodstuffs and everyday necessities from a market in Phu Sing district to keep in reserve.

Chakkrit Tomasa, a customs official at the Chong Sa-ngam border point, said that the number of Cambodians crossing the border sharply decreased while the amount of purchased goods increased.

Meanwhile, Thai villagers in Praipattana subdistrict near the border have built underground shelters, with financial support of provincial officials, to improve the security of the villagers.

In other developments, Thai foreign ministry official Thani Thongphakdi said that Thailand had presented the letter asking for access to the Thai detainee in Phnom Penh.

The foreign ministry information department deputy director said the ministry had forwarded a letter seeking permission from Khmer authorities to visit detained 31-year-old Siwarak Chothipong, an engineer at Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS).

The Thai worker was accused of given confidential information on Mr Thaksin’s flight schedule to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh.

Mr Thani said until now there was no reply from Cambodia giving permission, but it is the weekend and the office concerned is not open. The ministry would closely follow up the request. (TNA)

General News : Last Update : 19:57:45 15 November 2009 (GMT+7:00)
READ MORE - Thai-Cambodia border trade reviving

Thailand's PAD rally against Thaksin, Hun Sen kicks off in Bangkok 2009-11-15 17:27:51

BANGKOK, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) -- The People's Alliance for Democracy's (PAD) protest against ousted former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen kicked off on Sunday in Thailand's capital Bangkok.

By 18:30 p.m. local time, over 10,000 PAD protesters or the yellow-shirted people were rallying at Sanam Luang in the center of capital Bangkok after they officially started their protest from 04:00 p.m. local time.

The PAD rally, which was participated by the supporters from both Bangkok and many provinces across the country, was occurring after Thailand and Cambodia have downgraded their diplomatic relations due to conflict over an appointment of Thaksin as an economic advisor to Cambodia's government and Hun Sen on Nov. 4.

More PAD protesters are arriving at the rally site, the PAD staff announced on the rally stage. The PAD supporters range from the general public, students, employees of state enterprises, war veteran members to taxi drivers.

They were announcing that they were uniting to show the world the Thai people's strength and to protect the country's dignity against Cambodia and Thaksin.

A day after the appointment of Thaksin, the Cambodian government announced recall of its ambassador to Thailand in a move to respond to the Thai government's recall of its ambassador to Cambodia.

Moreover, on Nov. 11 Cambodia refused to extradite Thaksin to Thailand after Thailand officially submitted a letter asking Cambodia to extradite Thaksin.

Thailand's government will continue issuing measures to pressure Cambodia's appointment of Thaksin, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva disclosed Friday.

The weekly cabinet on this Tuesday will discuss about the possible measures and also review bilateral projects with Cambodia.

Also, the cabinet will discuss to suspend loan worth of 1.4 billion baht (42.02 million U.S. dollars) planned for Cambodia.

About 1,500 police staff were deployed to ensure law and order around the rally site.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said Sunday the government has not imposed the Internal Security Act (ISA) during the PAD rally since there was no sign of violence to occur, Thai News Agency reported.

Also, Suthep denied reports, which said the government took its people to join the PAD rally as he said "the government wouldn't do this."

In a related development, Thailand's Acting Police Chief, Police General Pateep Tanprasert echoed Suthep's statement saying that he was not reported about a third hand, who was feared to incite violence.

Police General Pateep said he has ordered his policemen to closely monitor the rally situation and areas surrounding the rally site.

The PAD core leaders earlier announced that the rally will not prolong as the PAD demonstrators will disperse peacefully at about23:00 p.m. local time.

Thaksin was ousted by the military coup in September 2006, in accusation of corruption, and has been kept in exile since then.

He returned to Thailand in February 2008 to face corruption charges, but he later fled into exile again and was convicted in absentia.
Editor: Wang Guanqun
READ MORE - Thailand's PAD rally against Thaksin, Hun Sen kicks off in Bangkok

Miss Cambodia Landmine 2009 to boost self esteem

By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
14 November 2009

Cambodian community in Norway will organize a beauty contest for landmine victims on Saturday after failing to organize it in Cambodia.

The event, organized in collaboration with the Association of Cambodians in Norway and the Khmer Buddhist Council in Norway, will also feature Khmer traditional dance and food display.

There are 20 landmine victims taking part in the contest, but since no contestant is able to travel to Norway, organizers will ask volunteers there to dress up as beauty queens and carry photos of the contestants. A winner will then be selected by potentially more than 300 participants.

“We want to show [people of the world] that our society doesn’t need a war and landmines to kill more people. We want to live in peace,” said Men Nath, one of the main organizers. “Another positive point that our program wishes to show is that every individual has equal value and once a person is disabled, how would he/she live if we don’t value them”.

Contestants, aged between 18 and 48, are from many of Cambodia’s provinces like Siem Reap, Kampong Speu, Battambang, Kampong Thom, Kampot, Svay Rieng, and Sihanoukville.

“The reason why I take part in the contest is to seek an equal right and call for an end to discrimination [against disabled people],” Song Kosal, 25-year-old contestant from Battambang province, told VOA Khmer by phone.

“Though we are disabled women, we have our beauty to compete and to show people around the world. We have the rights to tell our own story to all people; and the beauty is not the physical appearance, but our pure heart,” she said.

Song Kosal, who lost her right leg to a landmine 20 years ago, hopes that country that has not yet taken action to ban landmine will change their mind after they see the disabled women.

The contest was initially planned for August in Cambodia, but was not allowed on the grounds that it will be a “mockery” at the victims.

But, the organizers disagree.

“This project is very beneficial for the self esteem of the people taking part since they are being looked upon as beautiful and they are allowed or they should be allowed to present themselves as the beauty queens that they all are each in their own way,” said Morten Traavik, program leader of Miss Landmine Cambodia. “As for Cambodia and Cambodian government as a whole it would be given a signal that the government really cares about its own disabled citizens and let them present themselves as they themselves see fit”.
READ MORE - Miss Cambodia Landmine 2009 to boost self esteem

Cambodians cheer Pacquiao victory


By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 15:55:00 11/15/2009

MANILA, Philippines -- It's not only Filipinos who are shouting in jubilation over Manny Pacquiao's victory.

Cambodians are also cheering for the Filipino boxer, who has gained a following in the Southeast Asian country, according to journalist Ung Chamroeun.

Chamroeun said in a live chat with this reporter, that the match between Pacquiao and Puerto Rican Manuel Cotto was broadcast live on free TV on the Cambodian Television Network (CTN). The airing was also uninterrupted by commercials. The match was also shown on two cable channels.

Chamroeun said Cambodians had gathered in coffee shops to watch the much-awaited match.

READ MORE - Cambodians cheer Pacquiao victory

Thaksin Shinawatra: Cambodia’s advisor par excellence?

Op-Ed by Khmerization
15th November, 2009

“Mr. Thaksin, due to his business success and his wealth of economic knowledge, could be Cambodia’s advisor par excellence if he is not a fugitive of the Thai government. However, under the political climate and his fugitive status, he is advisor non par excellence.”

In have opined and editorialised in the past that I see no benefits in the appointment of Mr. Thaksin as Cambodian government’s advisor, beside to irk and to irritate Thailand. Mr. Thaksin would not be able to entice billions of dollars of trades and investments to Cambodia.

In fact, his lecture delivered in Phnom Penh on Thursday the 12th of November has proved just that. His advice had turned out to be not a magic wand for Cambodia’s current economic woes. It was just another seminar and lecture given by a person of high calibre. The seminar failed to attract a single cent of investment to Cambodia. And even Mr. Thaksin himself refused to commit to an investment project in the casino complex in Koh Kong he agreed earlier with Mr. Hun Sen because he is distrustful of Mr. Hun Sen and foresees the political uncertainty and instability his appointment could bring to bear. Mr. Thaksin’s lecture and seminar, if anything at all, is just a simple lecture and seminar by an “economic expert” that Mr. Thaksin is portrayed and purported to be. It has nothing to do with his economic advice to the Cambodian government, but more to do with his political speech. In fact, the seminar has been used as a forum to deliver his political condemnations of the present Abhisit government, which he accused of stoking “false patriotism”.

In perspective, one would like to think that Mr. Hun Sen had opted to gamble away Cambodia’s good relations with the Thai government by risking Cambodia’s larger national interests for the trouble that Mr. Thaksin’s appointment would bring. Mr Hun Sen’s decision to choose personal interests over national interests is beyond anyone’s imagination and comprehension. Mr. Hun Sen might have foreseen that Mr. Thaksin has the support of the majority of the Thai people and eventually he could be returned to government at the next elections. Mr. Hun Sen’s calculated risks or miscalculations with Mr. Thaksin could be a recipe for irreparable damages to Cambodia’s national interests and good relations with future Thai governments.

Cambodia’s association with Mr. Thaksin under the current political environment is a big risk and a recipe for disaster that Mr. Hun Sen should not gamble with. If Mr. Hun Sen thinks that by appointing his “eternal friend” as his advisor will help him gain power in Thailand, then he is wrong. Opinion polls show that Mr. Thaksin’s popularity rating after his appointment has plunged abysmally and Mr. Abhisit’s popularity rating has tripled. The majority of Thai people are against him now, especially after he allegedly said in the interview with the British Times newspaper about the Thai monarchy’s interferences in Thai politics. This remark is considered a lese-majeste offence under Thai laws that carries severe penalty.

Mr. Thaksin’s perceived return to government is a remote possibility. He is fighting an uphill political battle. All the Thai Establishments- the Army, the Court, the bureaucracy and, most importantly, the revered Monarchy, are all against him and are working hard to make sure that he is kept at bay. His acceptance of Mr. Hun Sen’s appointment could be his last straw and his political endgame. His trouble with the revered monarch, who is quietly working behind the scene to end his political life, could spearhead and precipitate his downfall.

However, assume hypothetically that Mr. Thaksin will return to power one day in Thailand. Mr. Hun Sen should not expect the future “Thaksin government” to be more sympathetic to Cambodia’s border woes either. Mr. Hun Sen should know very well that it was Mr. Thaksin’s proxy, the Samak-Nappodon government which sent Thai troops to invade Preah Vihear on 15th July 2008. And the first armed conflict on 15th October 2008 between Khmer and Thai troops happened when Mr. Somchai Wongsawath, who is Mr. Thaksin’s brother-in-law, was the Prime Minister of Thailand. Above all, the burning of Thai embassy in Phnom Penh in 2003 happened during the prime ministership of Mr. Thaksin.

Mr. Hun Sen is knowingly or unknowingly using Thaksin as a Trojan horse to re-gain political influence in Thailand, but he must be mindful that Mr. Thaksin could be a Pandora’s box that could unleash evils and social ills into Cambodian society. While Cambodia’s Finance Minister Keat Chhon hoped that Mr. Thaksin’s appointment could help spearhead Thaksinomics -Thaksin’s economic policy of rural self-sufficiency - in Cambodia, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya fears the appointment could help import Thaksinocracy - Thaksin’s corrupt style of rule - into the already corrupt Cambodian bureaucracy.

Hun Sen’s support for the revitalisation of Mr. Thaksin’s political comeback, as far as the Thai Establishments is concerned, is a lost cause. As such, Mr. Hun Sen’s association with Mr. Thaksin against the will of the present Thai government is a gamble and a recipe for potential disastrous armed and diplomatic conflict with present and future Thai governments.

In hindsight, all Cambodians from all political persuasions should look back and ask, is Mr. Thaksin’s appointment worth the trouble that it has brought to Cambodian and Thai relations? With the escalated and worsened diplomatic row caused by his appointment, that Cambodia should better do without, we all should realise by now that Mr. Thaksin’s appointment is not at the best interests of Cambodia and the Cambodian people. His appointment has degenerated and culminated into the downgrade of diplomatic ties, annulments of border agreements and the halt of economic aid by Thailand. And now the row reached boiling point after the arrest for espionage of an alleged Thai spy that led to more expulsions of diplomats from both countries.

While the present Thai government is doing its best to trample and demonise Cambodia through its arrogant diplomatic gestures as well as its military superiority, Mr. Hun Sen should sometimes swallow his pride, close his eyes and apply cool diplomacy for the sake of Cambodia’s national interests. The wild-mannered behaviours that have been displayed by Mr. Hun Sen so far have not helped Cambodia’s cause and is a bad publicity coup that Cambodia could do without. These sorts of crude diplomacy can undoubtedly tarnish Cambodia’s international image that makes Cambodians look like the bellicose and belligerent people in the eyes of the world.

To conclude this editorial, may I say that, Mr. Thaksin, due to his business success and his wealth of economic knowledge, could be Cambodia’s advisor par excellence if he is not a fugitive of the Thai government. However, under the political climate and his fugitive status, he is advisor non par excellence.

Click to

Posted by Khmerization
READ MORE - Thaksin Shinawatra: Cambodia’s advisor par excellence?

Thailand's PAD rally against Thaksin, Hun Sen kicks off in Bangkok

BANGKOK, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) -- The People's Alliance for Democracy's (PAD) protest against ousted former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen kicked off on Sunday in Thailand's capital Bangkok.

The PAD protesters or the yellow-shirted people officially started their protest at Sanam Luang in the center of capital Bangkok from 04:00 p.m. local time.

The rally was occurring after Thailand and Cambodia have downgraded their diplomatic relations due to conflict over an appointment of Thaksin as an economic advisor to Cambodia's government and Hun Sen on Nov. 4.

A day after the appointment of Thaksin, the Cambodian government announced recall of its ambassador to Thailand in a move to respond to the Thai government's recall of its ambassador to Cambodia.
READ MORE - Thailand's PAD rally against Thaksin, Hun Sen kicks off in Bangkok

Cambodian man arrested on suspicion of spying for Thailand

Saturday, November 14, 2009
Translated from Khmer by Socheata

In the morning of 13 November, near the border in Poipet, Cambodian police arrested 29-year-old Chuob Sovann, an employee of the Tropicana casino. The man was arrested for taking pictures of Thai red shirts boarding a car convoy to Siem Reap. When he was sent to the Poipet police, the man said that Pachai, a Thai administrator of the Tropicana casino, ordered him to take pictures of the activities conducted by the Thai red shirts people, as well as their reception at the Cambodian border for reporting purposes. The man was arrested at 2:30PM on 13 November 2009.
READ MORE - Cambodian man arrested on suspicion of spying for Thailand

Some wild suggestions to end Thai-Cambodian row

Friday, November 13, 2009
By Veera Prateepchaikul
Bangkok Post

Ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra must feel at home with the red-carpet welcome accorded him by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and with his new job as economic adviser to the Cambodian government.

Mr Thaksin’s meeting with some 300 top Cambodian businessmen and officials on Thursday morning in Phnom Penh, when he delivered a lecture on economic affairs and slammed the Thai leadership, most certainly gave him a sense a de'ja'vu – recollections of the old days when he sat at the head of the table controlling the cabinet meeting and lecturing his ministers who merely listened and rarely raised objections.

And, as in the good old days when he was always surrounded by his followers, the fugitive will today be feted by Hun Sen in the company of his faithful followers from the Puea Thai party who flocked in droves into Cambodia to pay him a visit and to ostensibly engage in light chit-chat.

Aside from Hun Sen who continues to treat Thaksin as his “eternal friend”, many Cambodians, especially the grassroot people, will, I believe, warmly embrace the fugitive with the hope that he can help lift them above the poverty line, so they no longer have to envy the Thai people next door. Several businessmen who attended his lecture admitted they were impressed with him.

Personally, I don’t envy the Cambodians at all over the free-of-charge advice being delivered by Thaksin in his capacity as economic adviser. In fact, I wish them the best of luck.

Honestly speaking, the row between Thailand and Cambodia was exacerbated from Hun Sen’s unprovoked conduct and perceived interference in Thailand’s internal affairs more than it was from Thaksin’s acceptance of the job in Cambodia. This was clearly evident in Hun Sen’s interview on November 9 when he publicly insulted Thailand and the Thai justice system and accused Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of being a “thief” for stealing the premiership.

But despite Hun Sen’s unbecoming conduct, most Thais do not hold a grudges against the Cambodian people. On the contrary, many of them despise a handful of Thais whom they suspect are using the hands of Hun Sen or vice versa to hurt Thailand.

Now, since Mr Hun Sen is being so generous with Thaksin and values his friendship so highly that Thai-Cambodian relations mean nothing to him, how about granting the fugitive permanent residence in Cambodia -- so that he does not have to hop from one country to another like a drifter.

And instead of just making Thaksin an adviser, why not make him a minister, which would at least partially fulfill his ultimate ambition for a political comeback in Thailand. If that cannot be legally done, then just change the law, since Hun Sen is already in total control of the Cambodian parliament. Or he could just grant Thaksin honorary citizenship of Cambodia which is quite a common practice for a government to honour a foreign citizen in return for his or her valuable contribution to its country.

Who knows, the ousted prime minister just might even be happy with that, and finally find peace of mind in such a generous -- though admittedly outlandish – offer. And with that, just maybe, Thailand and Cambodia could forget their row over the man from the North and become good neighbours again. As they should be.
READ MORE - Some wild suggestions to end Thai-Cambodian row

Freedom Prize Laureate Sam Rainsy’s Speech at The Liberal International 56th Congress

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy



31 October 2009 - Cairo, Egypt

Aung San Suu Kyi, Vaclav Havel, Benazir Bhutto, Corazon Aquino, Mary Robinson, Martin Lee, who doesn’t know these inspiring figures who have made the world’s recent history? They were also recipients of the Liberal International Prize for Freedom.

Today we are launching a book to celebrate 25 years of LI Prize for Freedom.

Founded in 1985, the Prize had 26 laureates (there were two laureates in 1991).

I was honored to receive the Prize in 2006 in Marrakech (Morocco).

Now, I am humbled to also, in a way, represent the other laureates at this ceremony.

They are, or were, most distinguished people who deserved the Prize much more than me.

But I am here because nobody else could come to Cairo today…

Let me first recall the origins, backgrounds and main features of the 26 laureates.

In terms of gender, there were sixteen males and ten females.

In terms of geographic origin, the laureates represented 25 nationalities (two of them were from South Africa).

In terms of occupation and professional background, there were 19 politicians also known as human rights advocates, and seven persons from the civil society including three human rights activists and four other persons: a scientist, a scholar, a writer and a poet who all worked for peace and freedom.

Are all the laureates still alive? 23 are still alive. Three have passed away: Raul Alfonsin (Argentina), Benazir Bhutto (Pakistan) and Corazon Aquino (Philippines).

Those who are still alive, what are they doing now? Most of them are old now – for sure older than 25 years ago – but they are still active in defending liberal values and ideals. One of them is the current president of Senegal, Mr Abdoulaye Wade. Two are in jail or under house arrest (Aung San Suu Kyi). Four are leaders of the opposition in their respective countries, including myself.

To fully understand the meaning and the importance of the LI Prize for Freedom, I invite you to read the book introduction by our president John Lord Alderdice.

“The Prize for Freedom was to be awarded to those who had struggled for Freedom in some of the most difficult and challenging political environments for Liberals around the world.”

“The Award would provide encouragement, recognition, in some cases, a degree of protection, since it would warn authoritarian regimes that moves against a Prize for Freedom Laureate would produce a storm of protest from liberals around the world.”

I fully subscribe to what John Alderdice wrote in his introduction.

I would add that, at least in my case, the Prize was not given to an individual. It was to honor a just cause in a particular context.

The cause is the defense of liberal values, above all Freedom that we all cherish.

The context for me was Cambodia.

The Prize was not given to me as an individual. I just received it, as the head of a team, on behalf of countless known and unknown colleagues and friends who had made sacrifices while serving the cause of freedom.

Founded in 1995, the political party that I lead in Cambodia, the SRP, is now the country’s second largest party and we will become, God willing, the number one party in a not too distant future.

But as of today, over eighty members of my party have been assassinated. Countless others have been injured, arrested, jailed, or forced to go into hiding or into exile.

I can never forget those who have been killed, sometimes in front of my eyes.

I have attended too many funerals. I would prefer not to receive any prize or award at all if I only could stop attending unnecessary funerals.

But things being as they are, the LI Prize for Freedom is a useful recognition of our legitimate fight and a powerful encouragement to us to go on fighting our uphill battle against a powerful dictatorship. The Prize gives us more courage and strength in the face of dictators who use the state media they control to denounce us as “traitors”, “anarchists” or “hooligans.”

Such a prestigious international award as the LI Prize for Freedom gives us legitimacy and honorability in the eyes of the whole world. It gives us irrefutable international credentials as democrats fighting for freedom, and that proves to be an invaluable protection against assaults from dictators who just want to eliminate us.

Thank you.
READ MORE - Freedom Prize Laureate Sam Rainsy’s Speech at The Liberal International 56th Congress

Funeral held for Melody Ross, teenager shot after high school football game

Sary Choeun, left, aunt of Melody Ross, sits with the girl's parents, Chantha and Vanareth Ross, right, at the funeral service. People across the country have expressed their sympathy and sorrow on a memorial Web page. (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times / November 14, 2009)

Friends, family and dignitaries pay tribute to the Long Beach girl.

By Ruben Vives
November 15, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Melody Ross, the Wilson High School honors student whose shooting death after a Long Beach football game touched off an outpouring of sympathy from around the country, was buried Saturday in Whittier.

A hushed throng of family members, friends and dignitaries gathered at SkyRose Chapel at Rose Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary, where her first name was spelled out in a collage of photographs taken over the 16 years of her life.

A slide show was screened above her open wooden casket, set amid wreaths of flowers. Nearby, a Wilson football helmet, a Gatorade bottle and a football sat on marble stands, each bearing signatures of those who knew her.

Looking over the crowd, Melody's Uncle, Sam Che, 36, said he was touched by the expressions of love for his niece. He pointed to a photograph of Melody and gently said, "Look at her smile."

At the podium, a family member read a eulogy written by her parents, describing the family's journey from Cambodia to the United States in the mid-1980s to escape the Khmer Rouge.

Melody's parents had moved to North Long Beach only a month ago, tired of the violence in their former neighborhood near Anaheim Street, the center of Long Beach's large Cambodian community. They had hoped to raise their three daughters -- Emily, 17, and Kimberly, 6, as well as Melody -- in a new home.

"In the same house, we hoped to raise our girls to be good citizens and to grasp the potential for a great future," the eulogy said.

But that changed two weeks ago when Melody was gunned down near Ximeno Avenue and 10th Street as she and friends left the homecoming football game.

Authorities said Melody was fatally shot during feuding between rival gangs. Two 16-year-olds have been charged as adults in the killing.

Two other men -- ages 18 and 20 -- were wounded and survived.

Melody's death sparked several candlelight vigils and bake sales to help raise money for her funeral. Music videos and slide shows have been posted on the Web in her honor. Thousands of strangers from across the country also shared their sympathy and sorrow on a memorial page.

"We have lost one of our best people," Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster said. "We're here to celebrate the life of an engaging, caring, vibrant, energetic and intelligent young woman."

Students, coaches and Wilson's principal said the loss of Melody, a track athlete, had a strong effect not only on the community but also on the school.

"In the last 15 days, we all have had the opportunity to see and feel the impact one person has on us," said Wilson High Principal Dr. Sandy Blazer.

Weeping, Melody's best friend, Tori Rowles, read a letter to Melody describing how that night replays in her head, how she struggles to understand why it happened. Rowles was a witness to the shooting but was not injured.

"You understand me the best," she said. "I miss you so much."

The three-hour ceremony came to an end as everyone lined up to view Melody's body. Family members wept and stroked her black hair, placing items near her fingers.

During the burial, 16 white doves and a balloon were released into the air. As a prayer was said and a hymn sung, each mourner dropped a rose on the casket, bidding a final farewell.
READ MORE - Funeral held for Melody Ross, teenager shot after high school football game

The Cambodian Prime Minister: China Becomes the Constructor of the Longest Sections of Roads in Cambodia

Posted on 15 November 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 638

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

“Stung Treng: The Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, said that China becomes the country that has constructed the most roads in Cambodia, sections of road of more than 1,500 km, which had been constructed, are being constructed, or are planned to be constructed. Moreover, China has provided loans to construct bridges with a total length of 3,014 meters, for which in total more than US$800 million have been offered for road construction and more than US$100 million for building bridges. Besides, there are hydro-electric projects in some provinces with 700 megawatt power, costing approx. US$1.7 billion.

“Samdech Dekchor said so during the launching of a construction site on National Road 78 in the morning of 12 November 2009: ‘The site to construct and to restore National Road 78, starting at 121 km from Ou Pong Moan in Stung Treng, to Ban Lung in Ratanakiri, is to be covered by red gravel, 6 meter wide; it was started with a loan from the People’s Republic of China, also with 5% contributed by the Royal Government.

“The Minister of Public Works and Transport, Mr. Tram Iv Tek, stated that the construction of this road will take 40 months, the width will be broadened to 11 meters, it will be paved according to the Double Bituminous Surface Treatment, following the 3rd standard of China, with 13 bridges of together 903 meters, and 126 culverts. It will cost US$73.3 million, to be paid by a loan provided by the People’s Republic of China, together with a 5% share from the Royal Government of Cambodia. But this amount does not cover expense for taxes, the state’s burden importing materials and other means for the construction, and for clearing mines and unexploded ordnance along the road.

“The National Road 78 branches off from the National Road 7 in Ou Pong Moan in Stung Treng, leading to Ou Ya Dav at the Cambodian-Vietnamese border. But a another portion of National Road 78 from Ban Lung to Ou Ya Dav is being constructed with a loan from Vietnam, and has already been finished 90%.

“Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen said that National Road 78 has the characteristic of serving for both internal and regional integration. This road contributes to provide advantages for integration in the country as well as connecting to economic centers in Stung Treng and Ratanakiri, in order to encourage economic and social development in Cambodia, to reduce the gap between the urban and the rural areas. It also helps to promote the livelihood of citizens in the Northeast through facilitating transport, commerce, the exchange of agricultural products, and industry, and to encourage cooperation and development in the triangle zone of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, through the Ou Ya Dav boarder crossing in Ratanakiri and through the connection of National Road 7, which is the Asian Road 11, from Vientiane in Laos to the Sihanoukville International Port. In addition, National Road 78 serves nature tourism, because the Northeast is a green area, rich in beautiful big lakes, waterfalls, mountains, and forest. It is also rich in many types of mineral resources and fertile soil that is favorable for agro-industrial crops, where rubber trees are prioritized.

“On behalf of the Royal Government and the Cambodia people, Prime Minister Samdech Dekchor expressed great gratitude towards the Chinese people and the Chinese government for assisting and supporting Cambodia. Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen added that among the 11 road construction projects of more than 1,200 km that will be subsequently opened in 2010, including the roads that the government builds by its own resources, as many as 7 projects are implemented with Chinese loans.

“Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen encouraged the Shanghai Construction Company and the Kwang Ju Vanan [? - phonetic] technical monitoring consultancy to take good care of the implementation to construct the crucial National Road 78, so that is has the quality compatible with the technical standards, and so that it is finished as planned or before the deadline.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #5046, 13.11.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 13 November 2009
READ MORE - The Cambodian Prime Minister: China Becomes the Constructor of the Longest Sections of Roads in Cambodia

Thai protesters denounce Thaksin's royal remarks

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra attends a conference called "Cambodia and the world after financial crisis" to give a lecture on economic matters to more than 300 Cambodian economics experts at the Ministry of Economy and Finance in Phnom Penh November 12, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

By Ploy Ten Kate

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thousands of Thais gathered in central Bangkok on Sunday to protest at remarks made about the monarchy by fugitive ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The demonstrators were also angry about the ousted premier's visit last week to neighbouring Cambodia, which refused to extradite him, sparking a diplomatic row.

Police said around 6,000 demonstrators were present by 5 p.m. (1000 GMT), making it one of the biggest protests by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) since its week-long seizure of Bangkok's two airports late in 2008, which helped weaken a pro-Thaksin administration that lost power last December.

PAD's re-emergence on the street will add to the tension in Bangkok, where Thaksin's "red shirts" have stepped up their anti-government protests in recent weeks and will be galvanised by his appearance so close to home in Cambodia.

"We want to send a message out there that the Thai people are loyal to their monarchy and will not let anyone tread on it," PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongpan told Reuters.

The PAD brings together royalists, businessmen, academics and the urban middle classes opposed to Thaksin's attempt to shake up the business and political establishment. The former telecoms tycoon remains popular with poorer voters.

Its supporters normally don yellow shirts, but that was not the case this time, with the organisers trying to emphasise all Thais, not just PAD people, were angered by Thaksin's behaviour.

The PAD has accused Thaksin in the past of irreverence towards King Bhumibol Adulyadej, seen as semi-divine by many Thais, and of having republican leanings, which he denies.

Those allegations were revived last week after an interview he gave to Britain's Times newspaper in which he reportedly blamed "palace circles" for his downfall, taking care to exclude the king, queen and crown prince from any criticism.

Thaksin has lodged a complaint at what he called distortions in the story, complaining in particular about a website headline.


The rally also aimed to express anger at Cambodia's appointment of the fugitive premier as an economic adviser.

"We want to show our love for the motherland and that the country's dignity and integrity must be protected," Panthep said.

Thaksin left Cambodia on Saturday, having given a lecture and met officials as part of the job given to him by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. He also met supporters, including scores of Thai members of parliament, during his stay.

Cambodia refused Thailand's request that Thaksin be extradited to serve a two-year jail term for a conflict-of-interest conviction in 2008, setting off a diplomatic row in which the two countries withdrew their ambassadors.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva blamed Cambodia for the row in a weekly broadcast to the country, saying it had not only failed to extradite a fugitive but had cast aspersions on Thailand's legal and political systems.

"Our goal is clear, that we do not want a problem that will lead to violence," he said, adding that life along their common border -- scene of deadly clashes over the past 18 months because of a row over a disputed ancient temple -- remained normal.

The PAD was founded in 2005 by Sondhi Limthongkul, a former business associate of Thaksin. Sondhi survived an assassination attempt in April.

PAD street protests against Thaksin's government fuelled the instability that led to the military coup that toppled him in 2006.

Abhisit took power in December, luring some former Thaksin allies into a coalition government, with a nudge from the army.

Some members of his Democrat Party are PAD activists -- Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya took part in the airport siege -- but the PAD has recently taken its distance from Abhisit, going so far as to form its own party.

(Additional reporting by Boontiwa Wichakul; Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Alex Richardson)
READ MORE - Thai protesters denounce Thaksin's royal remarks

Thailand's Abhisit: Early Poll Likely


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

SINGAPORE - Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Saturday that he will likely call early elections after the economy has firmly recovered.

"The likelihood is that there will be early elections once the economy is firmly grounded," Mr. Abhisit told Dow Jones Newswires. "The early poll could be called any time," he said, declining to specify a timeframe.

Calling early polls would help legitimize the rule of Mr. Abhisit, who was selected by Thailand's Parliament late last year after top army leaders helped broker the formation of a new coalition government. If Mr. Abhisit's Democrat Party and its coalition allies secure a majority in parliament, it could help turn down the heat on years of turmoil in the country, which is badly split between supporters and critics of former prime minister and telecommunications magnate, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Since being ousted in a military coup in 2006, Mr. Thaksin has continued to rally his supporters from overseas, where he is evading imprisonment on a conflict of interest conviction -- an allegation he denies.

Last week, he visited neighboring Cambodia, and dozens of supporters crossed the border to meet with him. Relations between historic rivals Thailand and Cambodia further soured when Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed Mr. Thaksin as his economic adviser, and the two countries have recalled their ambassadors over the incident. Mr. Thaksin left Cambodia Saturday aboard his private jet.

Mr. Abhisit said Mr. Thaksin still has "a lot of support, but he should accept the consequences of his actions and take responsibility for breaking the law."

Speaking on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Singapore, Mr. Abhisit said he expects Thailand's export-driven economy to contract 3% to 3.5% this year as it absorbs the full impact of the global financial crisis, but a rebound is likely next year, potentially enabling him to call fresh elections. "3.5% growth is achievable," Mr. Abhisit said.

Mr. Abhisit said he will continue to help exporters to help nurture that recovery, and suggested he believes the Bank of Thailand, Thailand's central bank, won't raise interest rates any time soon and put further upward pressure on the country's baht currency.

The weakening U.S. dollar has been a recurring theme at the APEC talks -- especially the way China's yuan has tracked the greenback down to undermine Asia's other export-led economies.

Thailand's central bank is among many in Asia that have been selling their currencies for dollars in recent months. "All we can do is to stop excessive volatility, and we have to adapt," Mr. Abhisit said. "For China, or any other government, having a misaligned currency serves nobody. So, eventually it will be corrected."

The central bank has bought $15 billion so far this year to curb the local currency's rise, Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij told Dow Jones Newswires Wednesday, adding that the weakness of the yuan will likely require further intervention by Asia's central banks.

Write to Costas Paris at and Jenny Paris at
READ MORE - Thailand's Abhisit: Early Poll Likely

Thai PM, Indonesian president discuss bilateral relations, Cambodia

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

SINGAPORE, Nov 15 (TNA) -- Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono early Sunday conferred on bilateral relations as well as on the ongoing diplomatic standoff between Thailand and its neighbour Cambodia, according to Thai Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya.

The discussion was held on the sidelines of the three-day 17th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings which are scheduled to end later Sunday in Singapore.

Mr Kasit said Mr Yudhoyono expressed concern over the Thai-Cambodian dispute and offered to mediate the crisis. The Thai premier reportedly told the Indonesian leader that his government will remain patient so that the problem would not affect the peoples of the two countries.

Mr Yudhoyono is scheduled to meet with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday afternoon regarding the diplomatic row between the two countries and, according to Mr Kasit, results or progress from the meeting will be conveyed to him by his Indonesian counterpart.

Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia along with Brunei, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam, are ASEAN members.

Diplomatic ties between Cambodia and Thailand worsened after they recalled their ambassadors, expelled the first secretaries of each embassy, and the Cambodian government arrested a Thai man which it accused of spying on fugitive, ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thailand has said emphatically that the accusation against the Thai national is groundless.

The Thai government has said the problem began with Mr Hun Sen’s appointment of Mr Thaksin as economic adviser to his government earlier this month.

Mr Abhisit, currently chairman of ASEAN, and the ASEAN leaders are to hold a summit with US President Barack Obama on relations between the regional bloc and the US which also include economic and security cooperation.

Mr Abhisit is scheduled to return to Bangkok Sunday evening. (TNA)
READ MORE - Thai PM, Indonesian president discuss bilateral relations, Cambodia

BANGKOK, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) -- The People's Alliance for Democracy's (PAD) protest against ousted former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra and Cambodian P

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) -- The People's Alliance for Democracy's (PAD) protest against ousted former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen kicked off on Sunday in Thailand's capital Bangkok.

By 05:00 p.m. local time, around 10,000 PAD protesters or the yellow-shirted people were rallying at Sanam Luang in the center of capital Bangkok after they officially started their protest from 04:00 p.m. local time.

The PAD rally, which was participated by the supporters from both Bangkok and many provinces across the country, was occurring after Thailand and Cambodia have downgraded their diplomatic relations due to conflict over an appointment of Thaksin as an economic advisor to Cambodia's government and Hun Sen on Nov. 4.

A day after the appointment of Thaksin, the Cambodian government announced recall of its ambassador to Thailand in a move to respond to the Thai government's recall of its ambassador to Cambodia.

About 1,500 police staff were deployed to ensure law and order around the rally site as it is expected that the number of the PAD protesters will rise on Sunday's night.

The PAD core leaders earlier announced that the PAD demonstrators will disperse peacefully at about 23:00 p.m. local time.

Thaksin was ousted by the military coup in September 2006, in accusation of corruption, and has been kept in exile since then.

He returned to Thailand in February 2008 to face corruption charges, but he later fled into exile again and was convicted in absentia.

Editor: Wang Guanqun
READ MORE - BANGKOK, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) -- The People's Alliance for Democracy's (PAD) protest against ousted former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra and Cambodian P

Detained engineer in Cambodia's fine

Published: 15/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Thai engineer who has been arrested in Cambodia on spy charges is safe, Thai charge d'affaires to Phnom Penh, Chalothon Phaowibun, said on Sunday.

The Cambodian government has accused Mr Siwarak Chothipong, a 31-year-old engineer working for the Cambodian Air Traffic Services, of stealing the flight information of deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra and Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen.

"Mr Siwarak is being detained in a prison in Cambodia and he is safe. I have reported the details to the Foreign Ministry and the situation in Cambodia is still normal," Mr Chalothon said.

Meanwhile, army spokesman Sitthichai Makkunchorn said no officer from the Armed Forces Security Centre under the name Manit was arrested in Cambodia.

He said the centre had not dispatched its officials to spy the neighbouring country, since the situation was fragile.

He believed this report was released to create a psychological war.

"The ties between the Thai and Cambodian armed forces are stable, especially along the Thai-Cambodian border," the spokesman added.
READ MORE - Detained engineer in Cambodia's fine

Govt ready to fly Thais out of Cambodia

Sun, Nov 15, 2009
The Nation/Asia News Network

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

"The arrest of a Thai national will not lead to closure of the embassy [in Phnom Penh]. The Thai government will ensure security for the Cambodian Embassy in Thailand and we believe Cambodia will also take care of our embassy in that country," Suthep said.

"If bilateral relations become more violent, the government is ready to evacuate Thai citizens from Cambodia immediately," he added.

In early 2003, the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh was burnt by rioters and several Thai-owned businesses in Cambodia were attacked following a rumour that a Thai actress had claimed the Angkor Wat temple - Cambodia's prized cultural icon - belonged to Thailand. An evacuation of Thai citizens followed the riots.

Suthep said the government had provided legal assistance for a Thai engineer arrested in Cambodia last week on charges of spying.

Siwarak Chothipong, 31, who works at Cambodia Air Traffic Service, is accused of supplying the Thai Embassy with details of ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra's flight schedule, according to Cambodian police.

Thailand submitted a request to visit the detained suspect, which was being considered by Cambodia's Interior Ministry, said officials from both countries.

"We have to see him, whatever happens," said Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to Thailand's foreign minister. "Thailand categorically denies all of the spy allegations."

There was no reply from the Cambodian authorities yesterday, he said, adding that it was probably because it was a holiday.

Suthep told journalists that flight information on Thaksin's journey to Cambodia was not a secret, as the Aviation Department and Aeronautical Radio of Thailand had been asked to allow his chartered jet to fly over Thai airspace. After learning that the plane had Thaksin on board, the government refused to allow it permission to pass through Thai airspace as he has been convicted and was also facing charges of threatening national security, Suthep said.

The deputy prime minister said Thailand would use this evidence to defend Siwarak, but the government would not intervene in Cambodia's judicial system. Initially, Samart Corp - Siwarak's employer - sent a lawyer to assist him.

In Singapore, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday that the ongoing diplomatic spat between Thailand and Cambodia would not affect cooperation among Asean members, emphasising that the problem must be solved by the two countries.

Abhisit, who is attending the 17th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meeting, told journalists that Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan had advised that Thailand and Cambodia should resolve the tension before the Asean leaders meet US President Barack Obama today.

He affirmed that Thailand, currently the Asean chair, would not raise the issue at the meeting.
READ MORE - Govt ready to fly Thais out of Cambodia

PM wants Cambodia to revise stance

* Published: 15/11/2009 at 11:29 AM
* Online news: Breakingnews

The Thai-Cambodian dispute will end if Cambodia revises its position towards the Thai government, according to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

"If the Cambodian government adjusts its stance, the problems between the two countries will be resolved," Mr Abhisit said in his weekly broadcast on Sunday while attending the Apec summit in Singapore.

"Thailand, as the Asean chair, will not let the Thai-Cambodian issues affect other trading partners and I would like Thai people to be patient and show their sincerity by being good neighbours while protecting their national interest."

He insisted his government did not start the problem, as ties between the two countries were smooth before the Cambodian government appointed ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as its advisor and refused to extradite him.

The government had used diplomatic measures to counter Cambodia, but it did not want the problems to exacerbate, he said.

The revision to revoke the maritime agreement with Cambodia was constitutional and it had to pass the parliament's approval, he said. The Foreign Ministry had been assigned to look into all the related laws.

On domestic affairs, he said the government had three main tasks: to reform the rail operation, to resolve the Map Ta Phut impasse and to eradicate narcotics nationwide.

He said the government will urgently solve the dispute between the State Railway of Thailand's management and labour union, while ensuring the safety of train passengers.

The economic ministers on Wednesday approved a budget of 100 billion baht to reform the rail operation by improving its services, products and personnel.

"The government wants the trains to run at a speed of 100 to 120 kilometres per hour. A dual gauge system will be used and rail services will expand to neighbouring countries. The management system will be enhanced and divided to support new projects in the future."

Mr Abhisit said a four-party committee, chaired by former prime minister Anand Panyarachun, had been form to seek short- and long-term solutions for Map Ta Phut, after the Administrative Court passed a ruling to temporarily suspend 76 industrial projects at Thailand's largest industrial estate in Rayong.

"The problems will be divided into 16 projects and the tasks must be achieved within 60 days. They are expected to start next week," he said.

The premier said the measures to suppress drug trafficking along the border areas will be more stringent, and officials will work more closely with communities to prevent illegal drugs from spreading.
READ MORE - PM wants Cambodia to revise stance

Royalists protest in Thai capital against fugitive prime minister

Bangkok - A pro-royalist group Sunday protested in the Thai capital against the "ugly" Cambodian visit of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

About 20,000 demonstrators were expected in central Bangkok where speakers denounced Thaksin for his lack of patriotism in allying himself with a foreign government "for personal gain."

Thaksin left Cambodia Saturday after a five-day visit at the invitation of Prime Mnister Hun Sen, who hired him as an advisor and called him an "eternal friend" who was wrongly ousted in a bloodless 2006 coup.

Thaksin's activities in Cambodia, including meeting scores of his Thai supporters, seemed designed to undercut Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva during the Asia-Pacific leaders conference in Singapore, Thai analysts said.

Sondhi Limtongkul, a leader of the royalist group, said it was important to remind everyone that Thaksin is a dangerous man.

"He is a publicist not a statesman. Everything he does is insincere and for his own ambition," he told German Press Agency dpa.

"It is quite incredible that Thaksin should allow his country to be insulted like this," he added.

The protest Sunday was also designed to emphasize Thaksin's lack of respect for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, said Somsak Kosaisuk, another nationalist leaders. Thaksin allegedly insulted the monarchy in a recent interview with the London Times, his critics said.

The status of the monarchy is particularly sensitive because 81-year-old King Bhumibol has been ill in hospital for the past two months.

Lawyers for Thaksin threatened defamation suits Saturday against anyone in Thailand who asserts that he is against the monarchy.

Thailand withdrew its ambassador when Cambodia refused to extradite Thaksin, who is fleeing from a two-year prison sentence for a conviction on charges of abusing power as prime minister. Cambodia also withdrew its ambassador and later accused a Thai national of spying. (dpa)
READ MORE - Royalists protest in Thai capital against fugitive prime minister

Thaksin opponents to rally over Cambodia trip

Thousands of members of Thailand's royalist "Yellow Shirt" protest movement are set to rally in Bangkok on Sunday
By Thanaporn Promyamyai (AFP) BANGKOK — Thousands of members of Thailand's "Yellow Shirt" protest group were set to rally in Bangkok Sunday against a visit to Cambodia by their arch-foe, fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

The royalist movement said it was also gathering to express outrage at comments that billionaire Thaksin, who was ousted by the army in 2006, made in a newspaper interview about Thailand's widely revered king.

The yellow-clad People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) blockaded Bangkok's airports almost one year ago to force Thaksin's allies out of government, and also staged protests against him in the months before the coup.

Senior PAD leader Somsak Kosaisuk said the latest protest was against neighbouring Cambodia's appointment of Thaksin as an economic adviser, and Phnom Penh's refusal to extradite him when he visited the country this week.

Thaksin left Cambodia on Saturday for Dubai, where he has spent most of the time since fleeing Thailand in August 2008 to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption. Thailand has also frozen 2.2 billion dollars of his assets.

"Our duty is to protect and preserve the country's honour and dignity and the monarchy. Cambodia violated the extradition treaty and allowed a convicted person to be its advisor," Somsak told AFP.

"This action harms our country's prestige. We will denounce both convicted Thaksin and (Cambodian Prime Minister) Hun Sen at the protest," he said.

Police estimated that 10,000 to 15,000 people would join the rally, which starts at 4:00 pm (0900 GMT) at the Sanam Luang parade ground in downtown Bangkok.

Deputy national police spokesman Piya Utayo said around 1,500 police officers would be deployed in the capital for the rally.

The strongly nationalist Yellow Shirts are also up in arms over comments made by Thaksin to British newspaper The Times, in which he called for reform of institutions around the monarchy.

The issue is sensitive because 81-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej -- a major force for stability in the politically divided nation -- has been in hospital for the past two months.

Thaksin's four-day visit to Cambodia sparked a diplomatic crisis between Bangkok and Phnom Penh, with relations already tense after a series of deadly clashes in the past year over a disputed temple on their border.

The neighbours recalled their respective ambassadors and expelled the first secretaries of each other's embassies. Cambodian police have also charged a Thai man with spying for the Thai embassy.

The coalition government of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva -- which took power soon after the Yellow Shirt airport blockade -- has been rattled by the prospect of Thaksin using Cambodia as a base for a political comeback.

Thaksin, a telecommunications mogul, remains hugely influential in Thailand's political scene, which remains bitterly split between largely anti-Thaksin urbanites and his die-hard backers among the rural poor.

His so-called "Red Shirt" supporters have themselves staged several massive protests over the past year, including the disruption of a summit of Asian leaders and subsequent riots in April.

But analysts said that by siding with Cambodia he could lose public support.

"To identify yourself with Hun Sen is a terrible political mistake," said Bangkok-based political analyst Chris Baker, who has written a biography of Thaksin.

"I think Thaksin has considerably weakened his own position. He's in a desperate state to try to negotiate over his money and he's overplayed his hand very badly indeed."

In September, Yellow Shirts calling for the Thai government to defend the country's sovereignty clashed with police and Thai villagers during a protest close to the Preah Vihear temple, leaving dozens of people injured.

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.
READ MORE - Thaksin opponents to rally over Cambodia trip

Cambodian gov't guarantees safety for all Thais, no sign against Thais: official 2009-11-14 23:54:33

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia will guarantee safety and security for Thais including diplomats, business people and travelers in the country, government official said on Saturday.

"The Cambodian government will ensure the safety and security for all Thais like diplomats, business people, travelers and other foreigners staying in Cambodia," Koy Kuong, spokesman and undersecretary of state of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation told Xinhua.

"Thais should not be afraid of staying in Cambodia, the Royal Government will ensure security for them," he said.

"We do not see any sign to protest against Thais or to run riot at Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh," Koy Kuong said, adding that no sign of riots against Thais at all. Cambodian government has responsibility for all Thais as Thai government does for our people and diplomats in their country, he stressed.

It is a response to some Thais here who expressed their concern over the tit-for-tat moves taken by Cambodian and Thailand governments in recent days.

Relations between the two neighboring countries were further strained recently after Cambodia named ousted former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra its economic adviser on Nov. 4. Thailand recalled its ambassador on Nov. 5, and Cambodia followed suit.

Those Thais worried that the rows between the two countries will result into any riots against Thais in Cambodia as it was in 2003, in which a part of Thai embassy and some property of Thai companies were under fire.

Editor: Mu Xuequan
READ MORE - Cambodian gov't guarantees safety for all Thais, no sign against Thais: official

Lucy Liu film highlights child trafficking

Published: Friday | November 13, 2009


Lucy Liu, who has produced a film about children sold into the sex trade in Cambodia, says the fight against human trafficking will be long.

Liu praised several projects funded by the United Nations (UN) children's agency in Egypt, where she was promoting the film Red Light at the Cairo International Film Festival.

The actress co-produced and narrated the movie, which follows the stories of a number of girls over the course of four years as they are kidnapped and sold to brothels in Cambodia.

conservative societies

Liu said on Wednesday it "is really going to take a really long time" to fight human trafficking, labelled the third most profitable business in the world after weapons and drugs trading.

That assessment rings true in the Middle East, where stigma in conservative societies and a lack of data have frustrated activists' efforts. Highlighting those challenges, organisers of several UNICEF-funded programmes Liu visited in Egypt did not even want to make details of their efforts public out of fear doing so would stir up controversy and pressure from conservatives.

"The first step is there are a couple of projects that exist and that is something wonderful," Liu said.

In Egypt, the sex trade is often hidden under the guise of temporary marriages sanctioned by some religious figures and local authorities. Under these marriages, hundreds of underage girls in rural Egypt are essentially sold by their families for large sums to wealthy visitors from Gulf nations.

Egypt recently passed its first child protection law, which criminalised trafficking and raised the age of marriage to 18.

The country's first lady, Suzanne Mubarak, launched a global initiative to fight human trafficking in 2006, signalling that there is a political will to confront an issue affecting nearly 2.4 million people around the world, according to 2007 figures from the UN International Labour Organisation.
READ MORE - Lucy Liu film highlights child trafficking

At 39, Loung Ung enters a new phase of writing and storytelling

Loung Ung has broken bread with Queen Noor of Jordan, lunched with Paul McCartney and opened her own restaurant, Bar Cento, in Ohio City.

At 39, she is a world away from the childhood starvation that distended belly and drove her to swallow rotten leaves. Born into an upper-middle-class family, Ung was 10 when she fled Cambodia with an older brother. Eventually, they learned that more than 20 relatives, including both their parents, had been murdered by the Khmer Rouge.

Those privations are contained in her 2000 memoir, "First They Killed My Father," a story that Ung tells in a child's voice. It is now widely taught and has been translated into 10 languages.

Critics have praised her as the Anne Frank of Pol Pot's killing fields.

Nevertheless, Ung said she was surprised to be asked to speak Sunday at the Cleveland Public Library. The memoirist and activist described the invitation as an unanticipated honor.

For local authors, it signals an arrival of sorts. Ung, who lives in Shaker Heights, will deliver her speech in English, her fourth language, after Khmer, Chinese and French. In advance of the Writers & Readers talk, she agreed to answer a few questions.

In your peripatetic anti-land mine work, you've become a professional lecturer. How do you find the proper distance for telling your own story?

My work has evolved from personal writing, writing that was therapeutic, a way to take away the power of those soldiers, who were monsters and gods of mythical proportion.

It changed next to activist writing, interviews with those at the rehabilitation centers [in Cambodia], writing that can actually do something. Now I write because I really enjoy it. I'm in a third phase that combines the internal and external. Honestly, I love it.

Memoir as a genre has taken a beating since the James Frey fiasco. Where do you see it now?

I think it is swinging back. I'm one who believes there are always going to be a few bad apples. And I've read many novels that are inauthentic.

Memoir is a collection of memories -- different from biography or autobiography. For me, it started as a beautiful form. People tell me all the time that my books read like novels.

One hundred and 20 million people have survived some kind of war. And the stories of all the Cambodians who survived seem like fiction to Americans. I get mail every day from readers, and they often say it took them years to open my book.

You know with something called "First They Killed my Father" that you're not in for a funny, rock 'n' roll ride.

Your second book, "Lucky Child," focuses on the parallel life of your older sister, Chou, who stayed in Cambodia. How is she now?

She's fabulous. She's 41 and a grandmother for the second time. She's really happy.

When I last saw her, I was watching her brush her hair. Most Cambodian girls do have long hair, and the bonding thing between sisters and cousins is you brush each other's hair.

She asks me, "Who brushes your hair?" and I have to say, "I do." It is so good for me to spend time around her. I've been back to Cambodia many, many times.

You've suggested, intriguingly, that your family may have picked you, the sixth of seven children, to escape with your brother because you were combative, and therefore more likely to survive but harder to marry off in Cambodia.

In every culture, being a tomboy is not highly prized. But my father praised me; he saw it as a sort of cleverness. My mother didn't like it. She'd always been two-dimensional to me -- my mother, my father's wife. [Ung last saw her mother alive when she was 8.]

But I'm writing a book now about my mother, and I'm newly in love with her. I've interviewed her best friend, my uncle and my aunt. She was really funny and spunky and a woman before her time.
READ MORE - At 39, Loung Ung enters a new phase of writing and storytelling

Author's found write balance in Cambodia

A FORMER Cleethorpes resident is enjoying a new life in Cambodia as a self-published author.

Robert Webster's debut novel – Buddha's Tooth, which features characters from Cleethorpes – sold 1,700 copies inside a year and was downloaded from the Internet more than 7,500 times within three months.

The 49-year-old, who used to live in Edward Street and was schooled at Matthew Humberstone, has a second book currently in production and a third planned.

Mr Webster lived in Thailand for many years and moved to Sihanoukville, in south-east Cambodia, about three years ago.

He said: "I was bored a few years ago and decided to try to write a novel.
Click here for more

"I thought it would be hard but it was not only easy but a lot of fun."

Read more about Mr Webster's life in Cambodia in today's Grimsby Telegraph.

You can download Buddha's Tooth by clicking the link on this page.
READ MORE - Author's found write balance in Cambodia

PM Abhisit: Thai-Cambodian diplomatic standoff must be resolved by both parties

SINGAPORE, Nov 14 (TNA) -- Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Saturday that the ongoing diplomatic spat between Thailand and its neighbour Cambodia will not affect cooperation among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), emphasising that the problem must be solved by the two countries.

Mr Abhisit, now at the three-day 17th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in Singapore, told journalists that ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan advised that Thailand and Cambodian should resolve their tensions before ASEAN leaders meet US President Barack Obama on Sunday. He affirmed that Thailand, currently chairman and a member of ASEAN, will not raised the issue at the meeting.

Thailand and Cambodia, along with Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam, are ASEAN members.

Mr Abhisit said he would confer with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on the sidelines of US-ASEAN summit Sunday.

Diplomatic ties between the Cambodia and Thailand have worsened after their ambassadors were recalled, first secretaries expelled and the Cambodian government arrested a Thai man allegedly spying on fugitive, ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, but Thailand has said that the accusation was groundless against the Thai citizen.

Cambodia Deputy National Police Chief Lt-Gen Sok Phal was quoted by the Associated Press as saying 31-year-old Siwarak Chothipong gave Mr Thaksin’s flight schedule to the first secretary at the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh.

Mr Abhisit said Thai government officials would try to meet detained Mr. Siwarak and ask him what charges have been leveled.

The Thai prime minister said he would be surprised if the Cambodian government refuses Thai officials an opportunity to meet Mr Siwarak, an engineer at Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS).

He added that the flight information was not considered as secret. (TNA)

Political News : Last Update : 14:51:25 14 November 2009 (GMT+7:00)
READ MORE - PM Abhisit: Thai-Cambodian diplomatic standoff must be resolved by both parties

Ousted Thai PM rallies supporters to Cambodia

Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra stands in front of Angkor Wat, the country's most popular tourist destination, during his private tour to the north province of Siem Reap, about 320 kilometers (199 miles) from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009. Ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin has accused his detractors of false patriotism in a speech Thursday, following the uproar over his appointment as an economic adviser to the Cambodian government. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

By SOPHENG CHEANG (AP) – PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Thailand said Friday it would not be provoked into violence in its diplomatic tussle with Cambodia over fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, even as the ousted leader taunted the Bangkok government by meeting with political supporters in the neighboring country.

Thaksin's visit to Thailand's doorstep has highlighted his ability to command headlines in his homeland and destabilize its politics, even three years after he lost power and fled into exile.

Dozens of opposition politicians and other Thaksin supporters drove across the border into Cambodia to meet with the ousted leader, irritating Thailand's government, which considers him a convicted criminal and a threat to its power.

Thaksin's warm welcome in Cambodia has strained already uneasy bilateral relations.

On Thursday, Cambodia expelled a senior Thai diplomat and arrested a Thai employee of Cambodia Air Traffic Services — which manages flights in the country — for allegedly stealing Thaksin's flight schedule and giving it to the diplomat.

Thaksin, a former telecommunications billionaire, was ousted by a 2006 military coup. He fled Thailand last year to avoid imprisonment on a corruption charge and now spends most of his time in Dubai.

Thaksin "is using a helping hand from a neighboring country as a tool to overthrow the monarchy and the Thai government," Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said Friday in Bangkok.

Thaksin's political battle with the Thai government — which came to power this year after months of protests aimed at removing the former leader's allies from power — has bitterly divided his country.

He accuses Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of having taken control by undemocratic means. Thaksin remains hugely popular among the rural poor, who have staged frequent rallies calling for his return to power, but he is reviled by many in the educated urban elite.

Abhisit said Friday that Cambodia's expulsion of the Thai diplomat was intended to provoke a "violent response" from his government, but that he would respond peacefully.

"The Thai government didn't fall for their trick," he told reporters in Bangkok.

Thaksin was named an adviser to Cambodia's government on economic affairs last week, causing Thailand to recall its ambassador, with Cambodia following suit. On Wednesday, Cambodia rejected a Thai request for Thaksin's arrest, saying he was being prosecuted for political reasons.

Nationalist passions have been running high on both side of the border since Thailand opposed Cambodia's bid to have an ancient temple designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Preah Vihear temple was awarded to Cambodia by the World Court in 1962, but some land around it remains in dispute.

Both countries deployed troops to the border over the dispute, leading to skirmishes that left at least seven soldiers dead.

Cambodia on Friday withdrew 1,000 special forces troops from the disputed border area, though others remained.

"We are withdrawing our forces because we want Thailand to understand that Cambodia wants the border of the two countries to stay peaceful and for the area to be developed for the sake of both countries," deputy commander in chief Lt. Gen. Chea Tara said.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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Cambodia Raises Stakes, as Ties with Thailand Plummet


BANGKOK — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is known for his brash and earthy vocabulary even when, as he did in early April, he talks about himself. “I am neither a gangster nor a gentleman, but a real man,” the politician who has led his country for 25 years said in a fit of rage.

The target of his ire at the time was Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, following comments the latter had made during a parliamentary debate in the Thai capital.

Hun Sen criticized Kasit for calling him a “gangster” during that debate, but Kasit shot back, saying his description of Hun Sen in Thai had got lost in translation. The actual words were “Nak Leng,” Kasit had explained, which in Thai means “a person who is lion-hearted, a courageous and magnanimous gentleman.”

It was Kasit’s second run-in with the Cambodian leader in under a year. In late 2008, when the former veteran Thai diplomat was in the political wilderness as a speaker for a conservative, right-wing protest movement, he had called Hun Sen a “thug” during a speech at a public rally.

If the new Thai government, formed under a cloud of controversy last December, was hoping that Hun Sen would move on from such moments, then the current war of words between the two countries suggests otherwise.

“The Thais seem to have forgotten that Hun Sen has a very good memory. He does not forget easily,” a Southeast Asian diplomat from a regional capital told IPS on the condition of anonymity. “He unearths details and history he knows well to go after those who criticize him.”

But the current war of words between Cambodia and Thailand has degenerated into personal insults and a trading of charges about interfering into each country’s judicial and domestic affairs.

Hun Sen raised the stakes this week in an increasingly volatile relationship between the two Southeast Asian kingdoms by targeting his Thai counterpart, Abhisit Vejjajiva, in a verbal barrage.

“I would not be surprised if there was a link here with comments made by political allies of Abhisit,” the diplomat added. “It is Hun Sen getting back.”

Besides words, Phnom Penh also rejected a request by Bangkok on Wednesday for the extradition of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who arrived in Cambodia on Tuesday to begin his new role as Hun Sen’s economic advisor.

Thaksin, whose popular elected government was turfed out of power in a 2006 military coup, has been living in exile to avoid a two-year jail term after a Thai court found him guilty in a conflict-of-interest case.

To goad the Abhisit administration, Hun Sen welcomed Thaksin with open arms and handshakes, and offered his own villa in Phnom Penh for the fugitive former Thai premier to stay in.

Bangkok has not fallen for Phnom Penh’s bait, for now. Even though it bristles at such hospitality and the verbal salvos, the Thai government is trying to stay above the fray, offering statements that appear calm and diplomatic.

“The government is stressing that the problem between both countries is still a bilateral issue,” Thani Thongphakdi, the Thai Foreign Ministry’s deputy spokesman, told IPS. “We want to see a positive sign from Cambodia that gives precedence to bilateral ties over personal relationships.”

Yet at the same time, the Thai government is taking a tougher line towards the range of ties it maintains with its eastern neighbor. “We are reviewing existing agreements, existing cooperation and future cooperation between the two countries,” Thani revealed. “Everything is on the table.”

Bangkok’s unilateral actions against Cambodia has already seen the Thai ambassador in Phnom Penh withdrawn and Thailand revoking a memorandum of understanding between the two countries to explore oil and gas reserves in the Gulf of Thailand.

It followed Hun Sen’s tongue-lashing that targeted Abhisit. “People should know that when I was starting my political career, [Abhisit] was still a child running around, playing,” Hun Sen told Cambodian journalists on Sunday.

“If Abhisit is so sure of himself, then he should call an election. What are you afraid of? Is it that you are afraid you will not be the prime minister?” Hun Sen continued, driving home his status as Southeast Asia’s longest-standing premier, as opposed to Abhisit, who has been in office for less than a year.

“I am prime minister of Cambodia who has received two-thirds of the vote in the Cambodian parliament. How many votes does Abhisit have? You have chosen somebody else’s chair to seat yourself in,” goaded Hun Sen, referring to the question of legitimacy that has dogged the Abhisit government. “You claim other people’s property as your own.

How can we respect that?”

The 57-year-old Hun Sen has been Cambodia’s premier for 25 years, a period during which he has not shied from revealing his authoritarian streak, using a mix of violence, intrigue and verbal attacks to cling to power. His journey to power began on the economic and social fringes of the poorer Cambodia, including a short stint when still a teenager as a soldier for the genocidal Khmer Rouge in the later 1970s.

The 45-year-old Abhisit hails from the opposite end of the socioeconomic spectrum, being born into wealth, enjoying a British education and feeling at home among Thailand’s patricians. He formed a coalition government after a controversial court ruling last December saw the collapse of the elected government. Through a combination of military influence and cash enticements to broker a deal, his Democrat-led government came to power by parliamentary vote rather than by going to the polls in a general election.

Hun Sen’s penchant for dipping into his country’s history to take on the Abhisit administration is also threatening to expose a darker side of Thailand’s relationship with its poorer and weaker eastern neighbor.

To counter Bangkok’s current charges that Phnom Penh is interfering in Thailand’s internal politics and judicial system by rolling out the welcome mat for Thaksin, Hun Sen retorts by reminding the Thais about the hospitality they offered to Khmer Rouge leaders like Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, now about to face justice in a United Nations war crimes tribunal.

“The Thai judiciary has not much value to be respected,” Hun Sen said during his weekend encounter with Cambodian journalists. “Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea were living in Thailand for years. This was a violation of international law that Thailand had signed.”

“Hun Sen is absolutely correct,” said Tom Fawthrop, co-author of “Getting away with Genocide? Elusive Justice and the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.” “In fact, after 1979, when the Khmer Rouge were driven out of Cambodia by Vietnam, [Khmer Rouge leader] Pol Pot and other leaders all fled to Thailand.”

“The Khmer Rouge’s fight to regain power was aided by logistics and weapons that flowed through Thailand, even tanks,” Fawthrop, a regional expert who spends time in Phnom Penh, told IPS. “The Thais violated the international law after the 1991 Paris peace accord by letting the Khmer Rouge operate along its border, which was not the case along the Vietnamese and Laotian borders.”

Hun Sen’s current anti-Abhisit rhetoric may not be the isolated views of Cambodia’s leader but may find resonance among its people, added Fawthrop. “The Thai-Cambodian relationship has to be looked at in a historical context. The Cambodians feel a huge sense of grievance.”
READ MORE - Cambodia Raises Stakes, as Ties with Thailand Plummet