Saturday, 4 December 2010

Cambodians in U.S. Mark Seventh Day following Diamond Bridge Tragedy

Phuket PAD Set to Call for PM to Stand Down

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By Phuketwan Reporter

Saturday, December 4, 2010
THE YELLOW shirt movement will reemerge later this month on Phuket when the People's Alliance for Democracy hold a high-profile seminar in Phuket City.

PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul, the man who couldn't be silenced even with an assassination bid, will head a gathering that will bring all the key PAD leaders to Phuket on December 21.

The conference at the Royal Phuket City Hotel in Phuket City is aimed at explaining the PAD's attitude to what it sees as territorial concessions made to Cambodia in the dispute over the Preah Vihear temple, which is claimed by both Thailand and Cambodia.

The PAD has come to be seen as an ultra-nationalist organisation because of its no-concessions approach to the dispute. The wrangle has led to the destruction of its once-amicable alliance with the ruling Democrat Party.

On December 21, those who attend the gathering are likely to learn why the PAD now wants Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to stand down, even though the popular impression is that the yellow shirt blockade of Bangkok's Suvarhabhumi airport in Bangkok led to his ascension to the Prime Minister's role in 2008.

That the temple belongs legitimately to Thailand has been the PAD view for a long time. Street protests have been held on Phuket urging governments - both ''red'' and ''yellow'' - to not make concessions to the Cambodians.

Phuket has traditionally been both a stronghold for the Democrats and for the PAD. But the schism between the two yellow partners has soured over the temple dispute and the Democrat plan to rewrite the Constitution.

The December 21 gathering in Phuket City is one of a series of meetings around Thailand in the leadup to a major yellow shirt protest set for January 25.

With a national election scheduled for 2011, it's unclear what the division now emerging between the PAD and the Democrats will mean for Phuket voters.

Southeast Asia's colonial heritage victim of modernisation

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Saturday, 4 December 2010

When Cambodia tore down a century-old school in the capital this year, conservationists bemoaned the loss of yet another piece of history in former French Indochina in the rush to modernise.
French colonial architecture - with its shuttered windows, grand balconies and pitched tiled roofs - for decades defined the look of cities in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, even after the French pulled out of Indochina in 1954.

But now, hundreds of historic buildings across the region are being knocked down as governments capitalise on rising land prices and attempt to create eye-catching skylines.

"What I see in Phnom Penh is little - or at worst no - heritage protection of significant buildings. I see the disappearance of old French colonial buildings," said Cambodia-based architectural historian Darryl Collins.

"It's a great pity because I think in time it will be regretted that so many of these buildings have gone," the Australian said.

Built in 1908, the Ecole Professionnelle - Cambodia's oldest training school - was razed in February, the latest high-profile casualty in the impoverished country's quest for modernity.

The Cambodian capital, or the "Pearl of Asia" as it was once known, used to be thought of as one of the loveliest cities in the region thanks to its French-style wide avenues, carefully-manicured gardens and stately homes.

Much of that charm, however, is disappearing at an alarming rate, say conservationists.

They estimate that as many as 30 percent of Phnom Penh's colonial buildings - survivors of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime and decades of civil war - have been demolished in the past 15 years.

While many Cambodians in the capital prefer to live and work in modern buildings, it's not just historians who are upset by the transformation.

"We should not destroy the French buildings. We should renovate them so that they look nice again," said Chheng Moeun, 76, who sells soft drinks outside a crumbling colonial villa near Phnom Penh's Royal Palace.

The demolitions are being driven in part by the kingdom's economic growth over the past decade, and developers are eager to build apartments and office blocks in the prime locations that many of the colonial buildings occupy.

Samraing Kamsan, a top official at Cambodia's Ministry of Culture, said saving French design in Phnom Penh was complicated because of limited funding and a lack of interest from the buildings' owners.

"We want to preserve those ancient buildings. Some people listen to us, but some do not," the official said.

Across the border, fellow former French colonies Laos and Vietnam are also struggling to maintain their colonial dwellings, said Collins, who blames booming real estate prices.

"It's a short-term pattern of thinking," he said, the main consideration being "sheer profit".

Hoang Dao Kinh, a specialist in the preservation of Hanoi's cultural and historical heritage, said out of more than one thousand French villas in the Vietnamese capital, only a few hundred remain in the original colonial style.

And while the country has made efforts to safeguard old buildings, Kinh said the application of a 2001 law on the preservation of such sites "has met with many difficulties."

But attempts to rescue some of France's architectural leftovers have not been completely in vain, he added, pointing to Vietnam's Dalat city as a noteworthy example.

In neighbouring Laos, the picturesque northern town of Luang Prabang with its well-kept colonial homes has proved a major tourist draw, and the government is keen to replicate that success in the capital.

Buildings in Vientiane have been renovated and are in "very good" condition, said government spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing.

"It's good for tourists. When the tourists come to Vientiane, they are looking for that," he said.

Collins believes governments in all three countries should see the preservation of French-era structures not as a nuisance, but as a way to attract revenue from foreign visitors.

"Decisions have to be made about how important these buildings are to the cities," he said.

But if recent remarks by the Cambodian prime minister are anything to go by, those in favour of conservation face an uphill battle.

"They want to keep the old buildings... But when they collapse, who would be responsible?" Hun Sen said in September when he announced plans for a 555-metre tower in Phnom Penh.

"Don't be too conservative. Skyscrapers are appearing. Let's build high buildings," he said.

Former Courier & Press intern faces porn charge

via CAAI

December 4, 2010

A 28-year-old photojournalist who interned at the Evansville Courier & Press in 2008 has been jailed in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on a charge of producing pornographic content after taking photographs of a Cambodian couple as part of an Asian photography workshop.

Go Takayama, a Japanese citizen who graduated from Ohio University, was arrested Nov. 23. After photographing a married couple inside their home that evening, Takayama was stopped on the street by undercover police, Angkor Photo Workshop organizer Jessica Lim said.

Officers confiscated Takayama's camera along with 78 photographs from its memory card. The photographs have been admitted as evidence. Takayama has been jailed since that night.

Go Takayama

"The 78 photographs depict a couple hugging and holding each other," Lim said. "Although there was never any nudity, the man had his shirt off and halfway through the shoot the woman took her blouse off as well. The man had on shorts and the woman had on trousers throughout the entire shoot and there was no explicit sexual activity."

"We are very concerned that press articles and reports released to date about Takayama's arrest are giving grossly inaccurate information, which contradict the actual events as well as the notes and reports that were made by the police," Lim said. "We would like to clarify all the information regarding Takayama and the circumstances of his arrest."

Lim said workshop officials believe Takayama has been wrongfully accused and are urging Cambodian police and the court to drop all charges. A hearing date has been scheduled for Tuesday in Siem Reap. Lim visited Takayama in prison on Thursday, and the photographer is being represented by a local Cambodian attorney.

The Angkor Photo Workshop is an annual free seminar organized for Asian photographers, Lim said. During the workshop, each participant has to develop a project and shoot a photographic essay. Takayama was one of 31 participants from 14 Asian countries in this year's Angkor event.

For his project, Takayama researched a Cambodian folk tale known as the "Seven Color Princess," Lim said. To illustrate the various aspects of the lore, a narrative about a princess and a crocodile, Takayama had already photographed several other people in various situations, including subjects at a crocodile farm, a floating market, Tonle Sap lake, a boxing match in a Pagoda, and a traditional Khmer wedding. Lim said Takayama had shot more than 1,400 photographs on his essay's theme, and some of the photographs are pictures of places that do not have people in them.

One component of the folk tale is the idea of "strong, possessive love," Lim said. In the tale, when the crocodile finds out the princess is planning to leave him to marry another, the crocodile eats the princess so that she will remain with him forever. To illustrate this part of the story, Lim said, Takayama decided to show strong, possessive love demonstrated between two people. To do so, he was photographing a married couple, with their permission, who knew the context of the story he was trying to illustrate for the workshop.

"No explicit sexual activity took place during the shoot," Lim told News Photographer Magazine. She said the couple were photographed hugging and kissing "in a romantic light."

When Takayama was stopped by police, Lim said, he and the couple were asked to accompany officers to a police station. There the photographer was charged with producing pornography for distribution.

Lim said that contrary to reports published in a Cambodian newspaper, there is absolutely no nudity in any of the photographs, no sexual activity and that all 78 photographs show the same couple. She also says his photographs were produced only for the workshop project, and Takayama had no intention of distributing or publishing the content.

AKP - Agent Kampuchea Press

via CAAI

6th ICAPP General Assembly Wrapped Up with Success

Phnom Penh, December 4, 2010 AKP -- The 6th General Assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) was successfully wrapped up here yesterday.

At the closing ceremony, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers H.E. Sok An stressed the Asian political parties’ determination to gather wills as well as resources so as to respond to the people’s expectations.

We had deep discussions on economic, energy and environmental issues, the three main factors to determine our future, said the Cambodian deputy prime minister.

“We have organized special workshops on ‘Women as Politicians’ and ‘Young Politicians’, which particularly focused on their roles in our common future,” he said, adding that the Centrist Democrat International Asia Pacific Executive Council Meeting and the first annual World Eco-Safety General Assembly have been also held during the 6th ICAPP General Assembly held on Dec. 1-4.

H.E. Sok An went on to say that the adopted Phnom Penh Declaration is a testimony showing our determination as political parties in questing a better tomorrow for our people.

Phnom Penh Declaration adopted by leaders and representatives of 100 political parties from 37 countries focuses on nine important points including reaching others to increase knowledge, dialogues, cooperation in order to achieve peace, security and social justice; the degradation of environment as our common challenge; the necessity of economic growth for all to narrow the gaps between peoples and nations; the importance of regional integration and more cooperation with other regional associations in the world; the necessity of each nation to improve its capacity for a durable agricultural growth; joint responsibility in combating climate change; the importance of renewable energy not only in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also in promoting sustainable development; the establishment of an ASEAN environment research center; and the promotion of close cooperation to deal with natural disasters due to climate change and environmental degradation.

Below is the full Phnom Penh Declaration:

“Draft Phnom Penh Declaration

Adopted at the 6th General Assembly of the ICAPP

In Phnom Penh, Cambodia on December 3, 2010

We, leaders and representatives of (100) political parties from Afghanistan, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, DPR Korea, East Timor, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Korea, Russia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tonga, Turkey and Vietnam, have gathered here in Phnom Penh, the magnificent Capital City of the Kingdom of Cambodia on the bank of the mighty Mekong River, for the Sixth General Assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) hosted by the Cambodian People’s Party in collaboration with the FUNCINPEC Party of Cambodia during December 1 to 4, 2010 under the main theme of “Asia’s Quest for Better Tomorrow.”

We declare as follows, taking note, in particular, that this historic event coincided not only with the Tenth Anniversary of founding of the ICAPP, but also the Thirty-third Anniversary of establishment of a salvation front for the liberation of the Cambodian nation from the genocidal regime.

1. We reaffirm that the ICAPP is an open forum for all political parties in Asia and has become the pivot of inter-party dialogue and cooperation in our home continent, in parallel to the efforts of our governments, to achieve our common goal of sustained peace and shared prosperity in the continent, through making great contributions during the first decade of its inception to (1) promoting exchanges and cooperation between political parties with various ideologies in Asia; (2) enhancing mutual understanding and trust amongst the peoples and countries in the region; and (3) promoting regional cooperation through the unique role and channel of political parties. We also reaffirm our strong commitment to the spirits and principles embodied in the Charter of the ICAPP and subsequent Declarations of the General Assemblies of the ICAPP – Manila in 2000, Bangkok in 2002, Beijing in 2004, Seoul in 2006 and Astana in 2009.

2. We reiterate our strong commitment to the intent and the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations, the Five Principles of the Peaceful Co-existence and the Ten Principles of Bandung that emphasize democracy, good governance, human security, principles of human rights, dignity, freedom, and well-being, rule of law and inter-faith-cultural togetherness. We are also committed to ensure peace, security, stability and prosperity in our home continent in the context of growing political and economic multi-polarity by respecting and adhering to the following principles:

a. Each state’s sovereignty and territorial integrity;

b. Right of every state to determine its own political, economic and social systems;

c. Non-aggression and non-interference in each other’s internal affair;

d. Peaceful settlement of territorial disputes and respects for treaties and international laws;

e. Arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and

f. Opposing and denying all forms and shape of terrorism, splittism and extremism.

3. We support the joint initiative with other regional political institutions, including the Permanent Conference of Political Parties in Latin America and the Caribbean (COPPPAL), to reach out to political parties in other continents of the world, to enhance mutual understanding and cooperation through dialogue and exchanges, and to convene a global convention among all political parties in the world in the near future.

4. We recognize that poverty and climate change are by far two greatest challenges facing mankind today and strongly endorse and support all efforts, both international and national, to fight against poverty and reduce the affect of climate change, including in particular the efforts led by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to accelerate the progress toward the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals and to arrive at appropriate solutions to reduce greenhouse gases with due urgency and importance. In this regard, we endorse the initiative to obtain an observer status for the ICAPP in the U.N. General Assembly to coordinate our activities with the various U.N. programs to meet the two challenges in a more concerted and efficient way.

5. We realize the need for improving liquidity management and pooling resources to allow Asian economies to have more control on the ownership of the processes of national and regional development. We need to seek inclusive growth by expanding economic parity in Asia and increasing the share of benefit from the global economy, by bridging development gap and streamlining integration with strong emphasis on improved physical infrastructure and connectivity. We also need to boost intra-regional trade in Asia by eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers on the basis of open regionalism, harmonizing and deepening cooperation and integration of East and South Asia through synergizing and converging of ASEAN and South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) frameworks, strengthening the Mekong-Indo Economic Corridors; linking Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) with South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) as well as Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). In this regard, we also reaffirm our commitment to the establishment of Asian Anti-Poverty Fund and Asian Micro-Financing Fund which had been called for in the Declaration adopted at the ICAPP Conference on Poverty Alleviation held in Kunming, China in July 2010.

6. We recognize that rising economies of Asia with their billions of population will tremendously put upward pressure worldwide in the prices and demand for food. However, there is a promising scope for transforming agriculture into the source of sustainable growth in Asia since it has a great potential to cater the increasing demand for foods within the region and beyond. In particular, we take note of the great potential of Mekong River basin as the main source of food, and, therefore, urge and encourage the countries in the subregion to protect and manage their water resources and develop their agriculture, including organic agriculture, to help not only reduce poverty in the countries, but also enhance the regional food security and ease the problem of food prices increase worldwide.

7. We recognize the critical need for de-linking and departing from business as usual, blame game or shifting of responsibility in addressing the issue of climate change and moving forward with the use of renewable and clean energy sources in a ground-breaking manner. We firmly believe that it is the proper course and the responsibility of all countries and communities in the world. Our departure in this way will require revisiting the culture of energy production and use, impacting upon the evolution of civilization. We will strive for strong political commitment, and education, awareness and advocacy campaigns amidst the mass citizenry to effectively make this breakthrough, which is so urgently needed, to happen. In this regard, we reiterate that the role of international cooperation in technological advancement and climate adaptation will be crucial.

8. We recognize that moving toward the increasing use of renewable energy is not merely an effort to improve environment and reduce CO2 emission but also an opportunity to create sustainable domains of promoting economic activities and growth, and raising income and employment. We should view the renewable sources as the main stream of Asia’s energy in light of their vastness for exploitation and energy security. In this regard, we further emphasize that more emphasis and generous support is needed for the technological advancement in the area of renewable energy, and an environment to attract the best minds and sufficient resources is needed for this purpose.

9. While we support the ongoing efforts to address the challenges caused by climate change and arrest the emission of greenhouse gases, we admit at the same time the need for continuous supply of conventional sources of energy to fuel the development process at least for some decades to come. In this regard, while emphasis should be placed on increasing use of renewable energy and on raising efficiency and clean technology for the use of conventional energies, the vast oil and gas reserves in our region should also be fully developed and utilized to deliver energy security in an era of volatile energy prices to all of us.

10. We recognize that biological diversity has played a crucial role in human civilization, and its loss will be a threat to long-term economic sustainability. The most important values of the biodiversity are the ecological services and commodities that it provides, such as purification of freshwater, maintenance of the earth’s climate, and sustaining food supply and timber. In this regard, we call for the establishment of Environment Research Center in Asia to support region's sustainable future development and creation of an institution to encourage pioneering and innovation for sustainable development, particularly in the fields of agriculture, forestry and fishery.

11. We call for close coordination and cooperation among countries in the region to cope with recurring natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis and flooding, in a more efficient and timely way by linking all activities of prevention, relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction at all levels, local, national and international. In this regard, we endorse the establishment of the ICAPP Medical Emergency Forum (IMEF) to adequately respond to challenges and threats from natural disasters as agreed at the 1st Meeting of the IMEF Steering Committee in Langkawi, Malaysia in May 2010. We also welcome the decision to convene the ICAPP Conference on Natural Disasters and Environmental Protection in Malaysia in May 2011.

12. We recognize the need for active work with young people and women since the process of Asian renovation cannot be implemented without extensive involvement of younger generation and women. We call for the establishment of ICAPP’s Youth and Women Organization.

13. We emphasize on the importance of preserving Asian heritages, cultures and values, which besides providing tangible benefits can also usher the development process in consonance with peace and happiness of mankind.

14. We highly support and compliment the efforts of the Cambodian People’s Party, under the able leadership of Samdech Chea Sim, Samdech Hun Sen and Samdech Heng Samrin, in achieving the following goals:

a. Negotiating political settlement to ensure Cambodia that is independent, peaceful, democratic and neutral;

b. Safeguarding and defending the Constitution and guaranteeing political stability and security, thus enabling steady economic development; and

c. Preventing the genocide from coming back to power and bringing the remnants of the Khmer Rouge leaders to justice through the Extraordinary Chamber within the Court of Cambodia.

Finally, we express our most sincere gratitude to the Cambodian People’s Party and the FUNCINPEC Party for hosting this historic 6th General Assembly of the ICAPP. Further, we thank the Royal Government and the people of Cambodia for their support and warm hospitality. We also take note with appreciation the continuous support of Hanns Seidel Stiftung, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the Korea Foundation which have made this conference a meaningful gathering.

Adopted unanimously on this 3rd day of December 2010 in Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia.” –AKP

Text by: CHIM Nary

Translated by: SOKMOM Nimul



PM Hun Sen Meets Foreign Leaders

Phnom Penh, December 4, 2010 AKP -- Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, received here on Friday visiting Speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives H.E. Feliciano Belmonte.

In the meeting, the Cambodian premier highly valued the presence of H.E. Feliciano Belmonte and his entourage in Cambodia, saying that it will help further boost and expand the cooperation between Cambodia and the Philippines, as well as promote the relations between Asian political parties.

Samdech Techo Hun Sen asked H.E. Feliciano Belmonte to help push the implementation of all agreements already signed by the two countries, particularly the MoU related to agricultural and agro-commercial cooperation, Ieng Sophalet, assistant to the prime minister told reporters after the meeting.

Samdech Techo Hun Sen went on to say that the Cambodian side would like to see the Philippines’ investment in Cambodia’s field of agriculture, especially in rice production and exportation.

The Cambodian premier further urged the Filipino side to examine the possibility to establish direct flights between the Philippines and Cambodia.

In reply, Speaker of the Philippine House
of Representatives H.E. Feliciano Belmonte, who paid a visit to Cambodia to attend the 6th General Assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) and the 10th Founding Anniversary of ICAPP, pledged to discuss Cambodia’s propositions with the Filipino president upon his return to his country.

Earlier on Dec. 2, Samdech Techo Hun Sen held a talk with HunHhH.E. Fidel Ramos, former president of the Philippines.

During the talk, the former Filipino president praised Cambodia for its remarkable development and the success of the 6th ICAPP General Assembly, particularly the establishment of the Centrist Asia Pacific Democrats International (CAPDI).

For his part, the Cambodian prime minister informed H.E. Fidel Ramos of the royal government’s policy to promote the cooperation between the two countries, mainly in the field of agriculture and tourism.

On the same day, in his meeting with Prime Minister of Nepal H.E. Madhav Kumar Nepal on the sidelines of the 6th ICAPP General Assembly, Samdech Techo Hun Sen accepted his Nepalese counterpart’s invitation to pay an official visit in Nepal in an appropriate time. --AKP

Text by: CHIM Nary, CHEY Phum Pul

Translated by: SOKMOM Nimul



ICAPP Proposes Global Debt Reduction to Finance Climate Change Programs

Phnom Penh, December 4, 2010 AKP -- The International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) has proposed global debt reduction to finance climate change programs, according to a press release of the ICAPP Press Secretariat issued on Dec. 3.

The full press release reads as follows:

“The poorest countries are often the ones that suffer the most from natural calamities that may wipe out, in the twinkling of an eye, tens of years of material gains that people may have won from patient husbandry, hard work and thrift.

In saying this, Jose de Venecia Jr., Founding Chairman of ICAPP and Founding President of CAPDI, stressed the urgent need to reverse this downward spiral towards ecological collapse, by saying that humankind must learn to live in harmony with nature and the people could no longer exist as the arrogant and heedless ‘masters of the universe.’

Venecia also proposed a radical measure to aid the campaign and fight against climate change by calling for a global debt relief for environment.

‘We propose a substantial ‘debt-for-environment’ formula to complement the debt-for-equity plan to fight poverty for the 100 highly indebted middle income countries under the United Nation’s millennium development goals (MDG).’

Our proposal is voluntary and does not ask international creditors to forgive or suspend a single dollar of debt, nor will it require new money from the legislatures of any of the rich countries,’ said Venecia, stressing that the proposal simply calls for creditor states and lending institutions the option of converting up to 50% or portions thereof of the debt service payments they received into investor’s equity in environmental programs in their debtor countries which could include reforestation, water conservation, alternative energy, mass housing, health education, eco-tourism and other social infrastructures.

The Prime Minister of Nepal, Madhav Kumar Nepal, said ‘Nepal is host of seven of the world’s highest peaks and being a mountainous nation, we are faced with the dire consequences of climate change, which has direct negative impacts on our country.’

‘We are faced with melting snow, global warming, environmental degradation and being a poor country, we are unable to cope with this, other than appealing to the international community to give more attention to the mountainous nations whose very existence depended on the environment in which they existed.’

A dramatic video presentation on the effects of climate change was also shown – uncontrollable floods, blinding pollution, sweeping mud slides, pounding waters and other calamities which were key points to shock the audience in realizing the perils of climate change and disregard for the environment.

Earlier, Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Sok An, who is also the Minister in Charge of the Council of Ministers and Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the 6th ICAPP General Assembly, said in his opening remarks that today’s world faced real challenges and dangers from the effects of climate change and global warming.

‘What we are facing today is not of our doing but we are nevertheless faced with its impact. The developing nations and the poor nations are bearing the brunt of the effects of climate change and global warming and we, as political party leaders and governments must take coherent, cohesive and consistent measures to tackle these perils,’ Dr. Sok An said.

He said that Cambodia was equally vulnerable to the threats to its eco-system and that it was giving close attention to the twin concerns of the battle against climate change and the battle against poverty as they were closely linked and thrived on one another.

Meanwhile Nepalese Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal told reporters on the sideline of ICAPP’s conference that the 2 main priorities of Nepal at this moment are the development of the Agro Industry and Tourism Development. The Government of Nepal is looking to collaborate with Cambodian Government in these 2 areas as they hold the most promise.

He said he had detailed and meaningful meetings with Cambodia’s Premier Hun Sen on bilateral issues and exchange of views on mutual interest. He said Nepal and Cambodia enjoyed closed mutual relations, understanding, goodwill and friendship and that he hoped the visit will deepen the relations between both the countries and open the doors for new opportunities, especially in Agriculture and Tourism Sector.

He said that Cambodia has pledged its support for Nepal’s bid to be the President of the 2011 United Nations General Assembly while Nepal had in turn pledged to support Cambodia’s bid to have her candidate as a non permanent member of the United Nation’s Security Council in the 2012/2013 period.” --AKP



Increasing Tendency towards a Change in Motivation of Membership in Formal Youth Organizations

Phnom Penh, December 4, 2010 AKP -- A press release was issued at the end of the ICAPP Special Workshop on Young Political Leaders held here on Dec. 2.

The following is the full press release of the ICAPP Press Secretariat:

“Asia’s youth populations are burgeoning, irrespective of whether they are organized through formal youth organizations and those who are not.

In saying this, Say Samal, Cambodia’s deputy secretary general of the Royal Government and who is also a member of Youth Association of Cambodia, stressed ‘some studies indicate that there is an increasing tendency towards a change in motivation of membership in formal youth organizations: many members have a pragmatic rather than an ideological interest in their activities.’

‘Explicit efforts must be made to include these young people who face obstacles, such as cultural norms that favor hierarchical relationships between generations, economic circumstances that prevent them from participating in anything other than income generating activity and lack of access to information and necessary skills,’ Samal said in his opening remarks at the ICAPP Special Workshop on Young Political Leaders.

Continuing on this, Kim Rithy, President of the Youth Association of Cambodia, said that never before has Cambodia seen an implosion of young entrepreneurs and technocrats entering the civil services to build a better tomorrow.

‘The youth of today, irrespective of their upbringing in terms of wealth or political bias, have human capital and innovativeness in them and that they were the key to lay the foundation for a brighter future for Cambodia in the years to come.’

‘Young entrepreneurs are the key to economic growth as they are filled with so much energy and creativity. If we have youth who have the basic fundamentals as the cornerstone of their development, they can easily integrate themselves with the world. Therefore, they must be encouraged to give their share of contributions towards building the nation,’ Rithy said.

‘In this regard we must help eliminate the difficulties which hamper the youth from development as they are the key for sustained human resources supply,’ he added.

He pointed out that the youth of one generation have great divergence from the youth of other generation. However, young generations face greater obstacles in their development into useful human resource and capital.

‘The challenge was to carefully balance the economic system, ecology and the environment in which the youth can thrive,’ said Rithy.

Meanwhile Abdullah Rifau, Youth Wing President from Maldives, said that the most important aspect for youth is for them to earn public respect and support as these elements were the key to win the heart of the public in becoming young leaders in any country.

‘The public have become acutely aware of the general tendencies of political leadership to enrich themselves. This has to be avoided like the plague. Leadership is critical but, of equal importance, is the need for young leaders to have a vision – a vision as to where our leaders want our future to be.’

‘Leadership must be confident. The more important thing is to support the rule of law. In democracy the leader must make sure the rule of law is maintained,’ said Rifau.

He stressed that when the leadership starts to believe that they are above the law, people will no longer respect them. They have to make sure there is no more corruption and that they do not impede the rights to freedom of speech.

‘Successful young leaders must have the passion, patience and take practical step to contribute towards society and the country’s political growth,’ Rifau concluded.

The speaker from the United States of America, Gary W. Raynolds, Chief of Police, Bedford County Sheriff’s Office, in his comments warned that the emerging problem for youth today is technology in the realms of internet and its abuse in pornography leading to sexual and child exploitation.

‘We must do out utmost to ensure that there is no more harm befalling on our children vis-a-vis child labor and our youth in all aspects. To enable this, there should be more education and preventive measures in place to eliminate abuse or exploitation of our children,’ said Raynolds.

At the closing remark Deputy Secretary General of the Royal Government of Cambodia, Samal, said the general consensus of the participants of the Special Workshop on Young Political Leaders is that ICAPP is an open and unique forum for Asia’s political parties and beyond.

He added that ICAPP has taken another step yesterday afternoon – that is by extending the forum to include the special workshop for young political leaders working to achieve the common goal of sustained peace and shared prosperity in Asia.

‘We were exceptionally pleased to note that this first special workshop on young political leaders here in Phnom Penh will help to promote exchanges and cooperation amongst youth who may be subscribing to competing ideologies and also enhance mutual understanding and trust among our peoples and countries; and promote regional cooperation in our home continent,’ said Samal.” –AKP

Poverty impacts women more severely than men

via CAAI


Poverty has impacted women more severely than men, the representatives of women's leadership from 22 countries have said in a joint statement.

The statement was released following a special workshop on women politicians held in Cambodia on Thursday, at which they said lack of access to and control over resources, lack of opportunities and lack of mobility were serious issues which impacted women more severely.

The "Workshop on women as politicians" which was held during the Sixth General Assembly of International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), focused on the roles of women as politicians and young politicians in the areas of economy, energy and environment, Xinhua reports.

Cambodia's Minister of Women's Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi said that women were severely impacted because of lack of decision making power and that women in the formal sector such as services, manufacturing and lower rung positions were often subjected to "last to be hired and first to be fired".

The general theme adopted by most speakers was for the Asian countries' dire need to address the key issues to construct a road map for accelerating growth for a better tomorrow. (ANI)

Heritage Party leader on a visit to Cambodia

via CAAI

December 3, 2010 

PanARMENIAN.Net - Raffi K. Hovannisian, Heritage Party leader and Armenia’s first minister of foreign affairs, is currently in the Cambodian capital to take part in and address the 6th General Assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) on the 10th anniversary of its founding, the party said in a press release.

Bringing together the delegates of 89 political parties from 36 countries, ICAPP’s continental convention is dedicated this year to “Asia’s Quest for a Better Tomorrow.”

Raffi Hovannisian’s plenary presentation outlined the global security, environmental, socioeconomic and human challenges of the third millennium, and against the backdrop of state sovereignties and national interests underscored the imperative of respecting and safeguarding the fundamental dignity, rights, and empowerment of each and every individual in national societies and international affairs.

In this connection and as the grandson of survivors of the Great Genocide and National Dispossession of the Armenian people, Hovannisian paid tribute to its victims as well as those of the Holocaust, the Cambodian genocide and all other crimes against humanity. Reconciliation, he concluded, must in all cases be anchored in truth, justice and a liberating redemption.

Raffi Hovannisian had earlier joined the other delegates in visiting the Phnom Penh High School which in 1975 the dictator Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge regime had turned into the S-21 concentration camp, a holding and torture compound that served as the launching ground for the murder of nearly two million of his own people in the killing fields of Cambodia. It was not until this past summer that the first senior officer of the Khmer Rouge was actually tried and convicted on the charge of perpetration of genocide.

In the margins of the conference, Hovannisian met with Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen; Malaysian Prime Minister Dato Sri Mohamad Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak; Nepalese Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal; former President Fidel Ramos of the Philippines; former President Megawati Sukarnoputri of Indonesia; Chinese Communist Party Politbureau member Li Yuanchao; Speaker of the Philippines Parliament Feliciano Belmonte; ICAPP Founder and former Speaker of the Philippines Parliament Jose de Venecia; as well as officials and non-governmental representatives from Asia and across the world.

Also participating in the conclave was a delegation of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation of Lebanon led by its Central Committee chairman Mr. Hovsep Moukhtarian.

A journey to Cambodia’s heart of darkness

By Andrew Buncombe

The Foreign Desk

via CAAI
Friday, 3 December 2010

For those in London, there’s a movie being screened tonight that I’d recommend for anyone interested in Cambodia, the struggle to bring justice to a nation wracked by brutal violence or simply has a passion for excellent and innovative documentary film-making.

The film is called Enemies of the People and it tells the story of some of the senior Khmer Rouge personnel who carried out the notorious atrocities that have so devastated and scarred that country. But the film is much more than that, which is probably why it’s been nominated for an Oscar and won a prize at this year’s Sundance festival.

The film is the work of British producer Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath, a Cambodian whose father was killed by the Khmer Rouge in 1974 and whose mother was forced to marry a rebel soldier. She died in childbirth in 1976. When the Khmer Rouge fell in 1979, Sambath escaped as a young boy, first to the refugee camps on the Thai border where he studied English in missionary schools before returning to Phnom Penh where he worked as a journalist.

What is so terrific about the film, is that it only seeks to answer the question that anyone who has ever visited Cambodia and quietly made thier way around the horrors of Tuol Sleng prison or else the killing fields on the edge of the city, always asks; namely how can ordinary people commit such unspeakable acts of violence and cruelty. It also puts that very question to the people involved, in this case the most senior surviving member of the regime, Nuon Chea, who is currently in custody awaiting trial at the UN-sponsored genocide court.

Because he was from the same area as Nuon Chea, Sambath was able to get to know the ageing former rebel. “He never used to say anything different to what he told Western journalists: I knew nothing, I am not a killer,” says Sambath. “Then one day he told me ‘Sambath I trust you, you are the person I would like to tell my story to. Ask me what you want to know’ For the next five years he told me the truth as he saw it, including all the details of the killing.”

Rob Lemkin, who is based in London, says he sees his collaborator as a man “trying to make sense of the nightmare of his childhood”. Of himself, he adds: “My personal connection with Cambodia is non-existent. But my connection with genocide is not: many of my father’s family died at the hands of the Nazis and a rather remote relative – Raphael Lemkin – even coined the term ‘genocide’.”

I saw a screening of their documentary – being shown tonight at the Frontline club in Paddington – earlier this summer in Phnom Penh. If I remember correctly, it was being shown the night before the UN court delivered its verdict and sentence of Comrade Duch, the head of the Tuol Sleng interrogation centre, who was eventually sentenced to spend 19 years in jail. It was a surreal experience, understandably, to be watching this film and listening to the testimony of so many witnesses and victims of the horrors, as one of those responsible was finally about to be brought to justice. I cannot recommend the film more. For more information and see other reviews of the film, check out

Graft Arrest ‘A Good Start’

via CAAI

Cambodians say a new anti-corruption law needs better enforcement and more arrests should follow.

International donors will provide U.S. $1.1 billion in aid to Cambodia this year, despite complaints of rampant corruption.

Cambodian non-governmental groups have welcomed the first arrest of a high-profile official on alleged bribery charges by the country’s new anti-corruption task force, but warned that the "big fish" should not be spared in the drive to root out graft in one of the world’s most crooked governments.

Om Yin Tieng, the head of the Anti-Corruption Unit, this week announced the Nov. 29 arrest of Top Chansereyvuth, the head prosecutor of Cambodia’s western Pursat province, on charges of accepting U.S. $8,000 in bribes from illegal loggers.

Top Chansereyvuth was also accused of extortion and illegal detention, along with his bodyguards Khun Sokna and Yu. A third accomplice, El Vanak, eluded authorities.

At the Dec. 1 press briefing, Om Yin Tieng vowed that his unit would continue to crack down on corruption in the country according to a new law enacted in March.

Mam Sitha, president of the Cambodian Independent Anti-Corruption Committee, a non-governmental group, said the arrest was a strong sign that the government plans to take action on graft.

“This action should be effective in the long term,” she added.

Am Sam Arth, an investigator with the local human rights organization LICADHO, called the arrest “a good start” that will lead to increased public confidence in the unit.

He added that the arrest also sends a message to other court officials across the country that corruption will not be tolerated.

“Court officials cannot just act arbitrarily without punishment. The Anti-Corruption Unit should investigate all officials, regardless of their seniority in the government, in order to provide fair treatment for all,” he said.

'Sending a message'

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of local rights group Cambodian Defenders Project, also approved of the Anti-Corruption Unit’s action.

“We applaud the unit’s move, but not because of the arrest. We applaud the first implementation of the Anti-Corruption Law,” under which officials could be jailed for up to 15 years if convicted of accepting bribes, he said.

Most of the Cambodian public also hailed the move, saying the arrest will show corrupt officials that they cannot expect impunity.

Soeng Sen Karuna, 32, a resident of Pursat, said that when Top Chansereyvuth was brought to trial, villagers gathered at the court and welcomed the news that the prosecutor had been brought to justice.

He added that the task force should allow people who were abused by the prosecutor during his time at the Pursat provincial court to file complaints against him.

“The arrest will send a strong message to those corrupt officials. They will be afraid to take bribes or they will feel anxious about trying to do it,” he said.

Government connections

In March, Cambodia’s parliament approved an anti-corruption law that created an anti-corruption council and an anti-corruption unit to oversee investigations.

The council recently adopted a five-year plan to take on corruption that will require more than 100,000 state officials to declare their assets.

But critics argued that the new bodies would not be effective as they do not operate independently from the government and those overseeing them have poor track records.

Om Yen Tieng, nominated by Prime Minister Hun Sen as the head of the task force in June, was previously the president of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee.

At the time of his appointment to the head of the Anti-Corruption Unit, Yim Sovann, a spokesperson for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said “corruption will not decline" under Om Yin Tieng's watch.

Global Witness, an NGO that monitors government oversight, warned countries that provide aid to Cambodia that they should “not be fooled” by Cambodia’s anti-corruption initiative.

"This does not represent a break from the well-documented and entrenched patterns of corruption at the highest levels of Cambodia's government, and it should not be welcomed as such."

Anti-graft organization Transparency International ranked Cambodia 154th worst out of 178 countries in its most recent corruption perception index.

Political and Economic Risk Consultancy also ranked Cambodia second most corrupt in Southeast Asia after Indonesia earlier this year.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who spent three days in Cambodia at the end of October, called on Prime Minister Hun Sen to do more to make the country’s corruption law a more effective tool in preventing the abuse of power.

Reported by Kim Peou for RFA’s Khmer service. Translated by Sarada Taing and Yun Samean. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Cambodian-Born Commander Visits His Homeland

PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 29, 2010) - Cmdr. Michael V. Misiewicz, commanding officer of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) addresses the crew following a frocking ceremony held aboard the ship. Mustin is currently conducting routine operations and training in the Pacific Ocean. Mustin is assigned to Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 and is forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan. (U.S.Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Devon Dow)

via CAAI

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Devon Dow, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West Det. Japan

Posted: December 3, 2010

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia – Commanded by a man who was born in the rice fields of Cambodia, the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) arrived in Sihanoukville, Cambodia for a port call Dec. 3.

It has been over 37 years since Mustin’s Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Michael V. Misiewicz has returned to his homeland after being adopted by an American woman in 1973 after the Vietnam War spilled over into Cambodia.

“We are honored to be representatives and ambassadors of the U.S. Navy here today,” Misiewicz said. “Very significant progress has been made this year in terms of U.S. and Cambodia relations and my crew and I are hoping to contribute to that forward progress of strengthening this partnership.”

During the visit, Misiewicz and his crew of approximately 300 Sailors will engage in community service (COMSERV) projects and other goodwill activities. Mustin Sailors will interact and train with the Cambodian Navy, host a reception on board Mustin for distinguished guests and participate in an overnight COMSERV trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia, where Sailors will have the opportunity to visit Angkor Wat, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

For Misiewicz this visit reaches beyond fulfilling the Navy’s mission, it also brings him back to where his life started and a chance to reunite with family.

His personal life story has garnered international media attention.

As a young boy growing up in the countryside outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia during the Vietnam War, his family allowed him to be adopted by an American woman who was serving in the U.S. Army in Cambodia. Shortly following his immigration to the U.S., Cambodia fell into more turmoil when the Khmer Rouge regime came to power in 1975, causing millions of deaths in the country in what is known today as the “Killing Fields.”

While Misiewicz has been able to re-establish some communication with family members from Cambodia over the years, it will be a bitter sweet reunion when he is able to embrace and see his family and native country for the first time in almost four decades.

“I’ve been thinking about this visit a lot and thinking about all the emotions I will have to cope with about returning to the country I was born in and seeing relatives that have wanted to see me for so long,” he said. “It is important for me to be strong and to remember and honor the sacrifices that were made for me.”

Both Cambodians and Americans in my young life sacrificed life and happiness so I could have a better life. So now I am very happy and proud to lead a mission that serves to develop a positive and persistent relationship between the U.S. and Cambodia, laying the foundation for a long-lasting friendship between our two nations,” Misiewicz said.

Mustin joined a unique group of Navy ships to have the opportunity to visit the Asia-Pacific nation since the end of Vietnam War. In February 2007, the frigate USS Gary (FFG 51) made its historical port visit to Cambodia.

“This is my first time ever going to Cambodia and I am very excited about getting the chance to visit. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Machinery Repairman 2nd Class (SW) Mickie Kitchens from Roseland, La. “I am glad to see my captain be able to return to Cambodia to see his family and show them what he has become, I know he is making them proud. They will all see he is not a little boy anymore.”

While Misiewicz is humbled by the attention on his personal life, he said the unique opportunities the Navy and United States has provided him, made a story like his own achievable.

“Anything is possible. You can start anywhere, any place, if you’ve got freedom and you have opportunity like we have in the U.S., the sky is the limit,” he said. “When you look at the U.S., you see that we are a melting pot of people from almost every country in the world, and then if you look at the U.S. Navy, that diversity is magnified 100 times.”

If one was to look at my crew, they would be amazed at the different faces, cultures and backgrounds. Every member of Mustin has a unique story of why they joined the Navy, the hardships of their families and of themselves. I’m just one of those stories. I am glad that I’m able to share my story so we can show that the U.S. Navy is committed to diversity and willing to give opportunity to those who work hard and want to succeed,” Misiewicz added.

Misiewicz assumed command of Mustin in June 2009. The ship is one of seven destroyers assigned to Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 and is forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, as part of the U.S. 7th Fleet.

37 years after escaping killing fields, a Cambodian returns as US Navy commander

 via CAAI

US Navy Commander Michael Misiewicz docked the USS Mustin in Cambodia Friday. He last saw his homeland, and many of his relatives, as a boy fleeing the murderous Khmer Rouge.

By Clancy McGilligan, Contributor / December 3, 2010

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

US Navy Cmdr. Michael Misiewicz watched today as relatives prepared to board his destroyer, which was docked a few miles off the shore of Cambodia. He had not seen any of them since he left the Southeast Asian nation as a boy 37 years ago, escaping civil war and the murderous Khmer Rouge.

This photo released by the US embassy in Cambodia shows US Navy Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, who fled Cambodia 37 years ago to escape the Khmer Rouge. He returned to Cambodia with the USS Mustin on Friday.
The commander’s face was impassive at first, but it softened as more and more extended family members were helped onto the barge below him. Then he saw his aunt, now 72, who had helped him leave for the US so many years ago. Commander Misiewicz walked slowly down the metal stairs and they embraced, weeping.

“When I saw her this morning,” he later told reporters on the ship, “I just couldn’t hold back the tears, I was so happy that she was here. It’s been a very long time.”

The USS Mustin, which arrived in Cambodia Friday, is on a four-day goodwill mission that includes meetings with the Cambodian Navy and community service projects. Misiewicz made it clear that he places his duties as captain first, but also said that he had been “overwhelmed” by emotions upon his return.

Escaping the Khmer Rouge

Now 43, Misiewicz was born Vannak Khem in the rice fields outside Phnom Penh. As a child, he spent some days watching movies and playing games at the house of his future adoptive mother, Maryna Lee Misiewicz, a US embassy employee for whom his aunt worked as a maid. As the civil war between the Cambodian government and the Khmer Rouge worsened, his aunt and father arranged for her to adopt him, and they left for the US in 1973.

“I liked the person I worked for very much,” says the now-frail aunt, Samrith Mol, referring to Ms. Misiewicz. “That’s why I decided to send my nephew for adoption. And I had the feeling that I would send him first and then I would follow him later. But unfortunately the war happened, so I could not go with my nephew.”

Misiewicz, who describes himself as “happy go lucky” as a child, remembers the tearful goodbyes of his mother, and said he promised to buy her a “big white house.” He recalls being excited by the prospect of a trip to America, which to a 6-year-old boy meant watching movies and eating limitless popcorn there. When he arrived, the absence of his family set in.

"I cried a lot when I first came,” he told the Monitor in an interview on the ship. “It had hit me: This is not just a fun trip, this is separation that’s permanent from your family.”

Cambodian in the American Midwest

Misiewicz, who speaks English with a Midwestern accent (he doesn’t remember how to speak Khmer, the language of Cambodia), went to high school in Lanark, a town in northern Illinois with a population of about 1,500. He was the only non-Caucasian.

He says he decided to go into the Navy partly to spare his adoptive mother, a single parent, the expense of college. After enlisting in 1985, he received a commission in 1992, and says he has learned to love his career. Officers on board the USS Mustin, a 510-foot missile destroyer, spoke highly of their commander.

“Now the ultimate joy is being able to lead sailors who are like me, who just wanted to have an opportunity,” Misiewicz says.

Yet as he rose through the ranks of the US Navy, Misiewicz was haunted by memories of his family. The Khmer Rouge sealed off Cambodia to the outside world, and for 16 years after moving to the US Misiewicz did not know what had become of his parents and siblings.

Long awaited reunion

As it turned out, his mother and three siblings had survived the regime, under which an estimated 1.7 million people died of executions, starvation, disease, and overwork. They fled to refugee camps along the Thai border and in 1983 received asylum in America. They then moved to Texas, but it took another six years to find the boy they knew as Vannak Khem. The search included a lot of phonebooks and the aid of a graduate student in Southeast Asian studies at the University of Texas.

“We knew he was alive, but we just didn’t know where he was,” says his younger brother, Rithy Khem, who lives in Austin but traveled to Cambodia for his brother’s first return.

The 1989 phone call that reunited them was bittersweet: Misiewicz learned that his father and a younger sister had died in Cambodia's “killing fields.”

Misiewicz, who is now married with four children, stays in touch with his Cambodian mother and siblings, although he says the “Navy lifestyle” restricts visits. And he has bought his mom a house, although he said, “It wasn’t quite a big white house.”

“For years I’ve been feeling a lot of guilt because my whole family did go through the killing fields,” he says. “My father was executed, and so I feel very sad, but I think coming home will bring a little bit of closure. I don’t think it’s going to really heal any wounds that I feel about it, but it’s going to help me bring closure to the loss of my father.”

Trouble brews on eastern front

Suthep: Clashes with PAD

Ultra-nationalist PAD plans rally to warn of Cambodian encroachment on Thai soil - Saudi response to Bangkok summit invitation will show whether relations with Thailand remain tense - Corrections Department chief assures red shirts that inmates are being treated well

Published: 4/12/2010
via CAAI

The People's Alliance for Democracy is all set for yet another gathering on Jan 25 to alert the country to what it claims is an impending territorial invasion by Cambodia.

The ultra-nationalist alliance has turned on the government it holds culpable for what it has called the loss of Thailand's territory on the eastern front.

The PAD's friendly relations with the ruling Democrat Party soured after the party played along with its coalition partners' demands for a charter rewrite. The alliance slammed the proposed amendments as blatant self-interest.

Its ties with the Democrats took a turn for the worse when Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, speaking to Democrat supporters in the South, chided the PAD for attacking him.

Mr Suthep also went where he had never gone before: he insisted Sondhi Limthongkul, an influential co-leader of the PAD, was ''no lesser evil'' than ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

His remarks, however, took Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva aback. In a verbal warning, he said his deputy should learn to hold his tongue so as not to needlessly invite hostility.

The PAD has shaken off its Democrat-leaning image and is pressing ahead with its planned rally on Jan 25 in Bangkok. But the government has reminded the alliance that the emergency decree remains firmly in place in the capital and any threat to security will be met with swift prosecution.

The alliance originally planned to hold the rally on Dec 11. But its key figures figured that since December is a month of joyous occasions, most notably His Majesty the King's birthday tomorrow, the gathering should be deferred until Jan 25.

The PAD, nonetheless, has maintained it is fully justified in organising a gathering. It says the country must wake up to the expanding Cambodian occupation of border areas in Si Sa Ket province.

A reliable source in the alliance said Chamlong Srimuang, another PAD co-leader, is leading a band of disciples of the Santi Asoke Buddhist sect to the rally. The sect is headquartered in Kantharalak district of Si Sa Ket and its centre is only a stone's throw from the border.

Standing in the centre's backyard, one can see the enlarging settlement of Cam bodian villagers who allegedly encroach on Thai soil, the source said.

The 2nd Army, which has jurisdiction over the Northeast, has also claimed there are startling discoveries that support the alleged expanding territorial encroachment, the source added. However, no details were given.

A senior military officer belonging to the PAD said new evidence has come to light that reinforced the belief that Thailand has lost land to Cambodia.

''We need to rally to let people know how serious this problem is. We'll bring forth compelling evidence

[of alleged territorial loss] and demand the return of the land,'' the source said.

The border dispute, the source added, is a highly nationalistic issue that will attract a large rally turnout and provide impetus to the PAD gathering.

Uneasy silence in Middle East

The government is getting restless waiting for replies from leading Arab countries to say whether they will attend the third Asia-Middle East Dialogue meeting in Bangkok.

Saudi Arabia has yet to say whether it will attend the Dec 15-16 conference, which was launched by Singapore in 2005.
It would be a major embarrassment to Thailand if Saudi Arabia, which will host the next AMED meeting, stays away or decides to send junior representatives to the conference here.

Abhisit: Awaits Saudi response

Diplomacy aside, Riyadh's reaction or non-reaction to the invitation could reflect its mood toward Thailand, given the frosty state of bilateral relations.

Bangkok and Riyadh have not seen eye-to-eye since Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic ties.

This followed the murder of four members of its diplomatic staff in Bangkok in 1989 and 1990, plus the 1990 disappearance of Saudi Arabian businessman Mohammad al-Ruwaili following a notorious jewellery theft saga.

Not a single Thai government in the past two decades has come close to providing a satisfactory explanation or to bringing any culprits to justice.

Some progress was made in January this year with the indictment of Lt Gen Somkid Boonthanom and four other police in connection with the disappearance of Mr Ruwaili.

This year's AMED theme, ''Strengthening Cooperation towards Common Prosperity'', will also showcase how much clout Thailand has mustered in maintaining the right diplomatic balance in its ties with Arab countries.

This is especially important when problems concerning the southern insurgency have popped up at the Organisation of Islamic Conference.

Nineteen deputy ministers and ministers have confirmed they will attend out of 50 nations which have been invited.

Confirmed guests include Singapore's senior minister of state for foreign affairs Zainul Abidin Rasheed and Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will preside over the opening ceremony on Dec 15 at Queen Sirikit National Convention Center.

Issues to be discussed will cover a wide range of political, economic and social matters, including terrorism, piracy and maritime security, business opportunities and climate change.

The conference will boost the local economy, and could highlight Thailand's potential as Asia's bread basket, a hub for medical and health tourism and as a prime tourist destination for Muslim people, government sources say.

Representatives of the Palestinian Authority will also take part.

The AMED ministerial meeting is held biennially at venues alternating between Asia and the Middle East. Its inaugural session was organised in Singapore in 2005, while AMED II was held in Egypt in 2008.

Chartchai puts record straight

Corrections Department director-general Chartchai Suthiklom says he has never felt any pressure taking care of detained red shirt supporters at various prisons over the past six months.

Mr Chartchai insists the department has treated the red shirt detainees fairly. Their basic human rights have been protected and they still have a chance to meet their relatives, friends and supporters every weekday.

Chartchai: No abuse of red shirts

''We treat them like other [inmates]. We don't abuse them as feared by some red shirt supporters,'' Mr Chartchai said.

Since the government imposed the emergency decree six months ago, more than 400 red shirt protesters have been detained on charges of terrorism and sent to jails in several provinces.

Red shirt supporters have continued to demand their release and questioned the inmates' treatment by the Corrections Department.

Mr Chartchai explained he had reached an understanding with the red shirts about their treatment when the group rallied outside the Bangkok Special Remand Prison _ where 10 leaders of the red shirts are being detained _ and called for justice for the detainees.

Ten detained red shirt leaders are now being held separately in five detention areas inside the prison and they have to abide by prison regulations just like ordinary prisoners.

''My warders tell me that they are still healthy and strong,'' he said. ''They take good care of themselves.''

In the six months that have passed, about 200 red shirt detainees have been freed.

Mr Chartchai said authorities have stopped arresting red shirt supporters under the emergency decree and sending them to jail. Although the group occasionally conducts political activities, they are generally peaceful.

With most red shirt co-leaders behind bars, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) has installed Thida Thavornseth, the wife of detained red shirt co-leader Weng Tojirakarn, as its chairwoman.

She replaced former UDD chairman Veera Musikhapong, who has been given bail to fight the terrorism charge against him since he turned himself into authorities shortly before the crackdown on the red shirt protesters at Ratchaprasong intersection on May 19.

Ms Thida is widely known among the red shirts as a moderate political activist.

She has worked with the UDD since the movement was established four years ago following the ouster of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. She has taught red shirt supporters about democracy, justice and social equity.

Suriyan Thongnueiad, secretary-general of the Campaign for Popular Democracy, said he believed Ms Thida was not the real chairwoman of the UDD and her appointment was merely to shore up the movement's image.

''I don't know exactly how powerful and charismatic a leader she is ...We have to wait and see,'' Mr Suriyan said.

Next Friday, Ms Thida will lead a red shirt rally for the first time to Democracy Monument to demand justice for victims of the red shirt protest between March 12 and May 19 in which 92 people, including security personnel, were killed and more than 1,000 others injured.