Saturday, 15 January 2011

Deputy PM: Unnecessary to reinforce troops along Thai-Cambodian border

via CAAI

BANGKOK, Jan 15 -- Refuting accusations by an activist Thailand Patriots Network (TPN) group that senior Thai military officers have made gains along the Thai-Cambodian border, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said Saturday no high ranking military officers received money for personal gain as charged.

He also gave assurance that Thai forces along the border are sufficient and there is no need for reinforcements.

Activists from the TPN, the so-called patriots on Friday rallied at the Defense Ministry calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya and Defense Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan.

They charged that the Abhisit government is sitting by idly after the arrest of the Thais at the border Dec 29 on Cambodian charges that they had intruded into Cambodian territory, when the so-called 'patriots' believed themselves to be on Thai soil.

The demonstrators also charged that senior Thai military officers chose to stay idle because several had received payoffs on the border.

Mr Suthep said the TPN accusations were unfair to Gen Prawit because he is a major force coordinating with Cambodian government leaders in a bid to bring the seven detainees back to Thailand.

The deputy premier also said no senior Thai military officers had been paid off as charged by the activists.

The deputy premier said that current movements by the so-called patriots would not affect the stability of the Thai government because “a majority of the people don’t want violence” and without the support of the public the group could not be successful.

He emphasised that the government is trying assure that the activists stay within the law in their actions.

On reports that Cambodia has reinforced its troops along the Thai border at Kantharalak district in Si Sa Ket, Mr Suthep urged Thais not to panic, saying that Thai troops are ready to defend the sovereignty of the country.

The deputy premier will query the military as to whether the reinforcement reports are true.

It is still unnecessary to reinforce Thai troops along the border, he said.

As five of the seven Thais are still in custody denied bail by the Cambodian court, Mr Suthep said, it is the responsibility of the Foreign Affairs Ministry to find ways of freeing them, but according to rules and regulations.

On plans by Democrat MPs to travel to Phnom Penh to visit Panich Vikietsreth, an MP for Bangkok and member of the party, Mr Suthep said he would ask the lawmakers not to do so as it could send a wrong signal to Phnom Penh.

The Cambodian authorities might react negatively if their feel the planned visit is aimed at pressuring them to release all the detained Thais. (MCOT online news

Cambodia sees Chinese visitors as potential boost to tourism

via CAAI

January 15, 2011

In addition to the significant roles contributed by China to the country's development that is admired by Cambodian leaders, Cambodia is also seeing Chinese visitors as a potential boost to tourism.

Tith Chantha, director general of Cambodia's Ministry of Tourism highlighted China as a future main source of the Kingdom' s visitors.

"I am viewing and hoping that Chinese tourists will visit Cambodia just like the Mekong River that flows from China," he said.

China is now recorded as the third largest source of foreign tourists to Cambodia, according to statistics of the tourims ministry.

The latest figure showed that 177,636 Chinese visited Cambodia in 2010, an increase of 38.55 percent over 2009.

Cambodia has 438 hotels with 25,000 rooms and it is expected to have 40,000 more rooms by 2015 and 70,000 more rooms by 2020.

Tith Chantha said the tourism sector will generate as much as 4 billion U.S. dollars in revenue in 10 years.

In many forums, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has praised China for its major roles in helping his country including hard and soft assistance.

He said that he has gradually built good relationship with China since 1994, from good neighbor cooperation to mutual trust cooperation in 2006 and now it has reached a comprehensive strategic partner of cooperation.

In terms of investment, Hun Sen said China is seen as the largest investors of all in 2010.

And on tourism, he has encouraged local people and services to accept China's Yuan currency in a way to facilitate Chinese visitors to his country.

Hun Sen said his country's tourism has contributed 10 percent to Gross Domestic Product.

He also said tourism is playing an important role in boosting economic growth and the happiness of all people around the globe, and thus his government set tourism as one of the priority sectors for development, saying it is considered as "green gold" which is helping to promote the good living standard of the people, especially, those who are living in the touristic sites.

Cambodia is forecasting that foreign tourists will reach 6 million by year 2020.

In 2010, Cambodia hosted 2,508,289 tourist, an increase of 16 percent compared to 2,161,577 in 2009.

While many countries around the world are working hard to attract foreign tourists, Cambodia will be extremely busy hosting the 30th ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF 2011) this weekend through next week.

More than 2,000 delegates from 10 member states of Association of Southeast Asian Nations are ready to take part in the upcoming ATF 2011 which will be held from Jan. 15 to Jan. 21, 2011 at the newly built Diamond Island Convention and Exhibition Center in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia.

During the ATF 2011, there will be travel exchange (TRAVEX) which will give the venue for the ASEAN's package tour sellers and potential buyers from the region and the world, and friendship golf tournament for ASEAN Tourism Ministers and senior officials, organized and sponsored by international television network.

As planned China will also take part in the forum as a dialogue partner, according to organizers.


For those New Zealanders) Severe weather from two cyclones is expected to hit New Zealand from Tuesday.

via CAAI

Storms predicted for New Zealand

Cyclone Vania is moving across the Pacific while Cyclone Zelia is in the northern Coral Sea above New Caledonia.

The remains of Cyclone Vania are expected to reach New Zealand on Tuesday, bringing stormy conditions, heavy rain and wind gusts of up to 100 km/h to northern and central North Island areas.

MetService says Cyclone Zelia is moving faster southeastward and its trajectory is less certain, but its remnants are expected to affect northern New Zealand on Wednesday with winds gusting up to 120 km/h.

MetService severe weather forecaster Andy Downs says both systems will have weakened by the time they arrive over New Zealand, but both, especially Cyclone Zelia, have the potential to be destructive.

Cyclone alerts for Vania have been lifted in New Caledonia, where gales, high seas and heavy rain closed airports, cut power and forced people to move to safe shelter.

A Journalist Injured In a Brawl With Police

The First Female Driver at UNDP Cambodia

Court denies bail for 5 jailed Thais

via CAAI

Published: 15/01/2011
PHNOM PENH : The Foreign Ministry has lodged an appeal with the Phnom Penh municipal court seeking a review of its decision to deny bail to the remaining five Thais held in the Cambodian capital.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday said the request for a judicial review was submitted immediately after the court rejected bail bids for the five.

The government expects the results of the review early next week.

Mr Abhisit said the government is determined to have all of them released or at least bailed.

"The bail granted to the two others is a good sign. I do not know why the other five were denied bail," he said.

Meanwhile, Cambodia's Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry yesterday issued a statement saying the Cambodian court is proceeding in the cases without any animosity toward the Thai people.

The statement said on Dec 29 seven Thai nationals illegally crossed the border. This group was arrested and handed over to the Cambodian court for legal action in accordance with Cambodia's immigration law.

On Thursday, the Cambodian court freed on bail Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth and Narumol Chitwaratana on health grounds. The court is still considering the cases of the other five.

"The court of Cambodia is proceeding on this case in accordance with Cambodia's immigration law in consideration of the current good relations between Cambodia and Thailand, without any animosity towards the Thai people," the statement said.

Thai ambassador to Cambodia Prasas Prasasvinitchai said the Cambodian lawyers representing the five detained Thais have lodged an appeal asking the court to temporarily release them on bail.

The Thai ambassador also said Mr Panich and Ms Narumol, who are now residing inside his residence at the Royal Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh, did not wish to talk with the media in case their remarks affected their cases.

Besides the trespassing charge, two of the Thais - Veera Somkwamkid, a coordinator of the Thai Patriots Network, and Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, Mr Veera's secretary - are accused of spying and posing a threat to Cambodia's national security.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdee said the Cambodian court did not give any reason as to why the bail bids had been rejected.

He added that Cambodian authorities have agreed in principle to allow representatives of the Thai Patriots Network to visit the five, who are detained at Prey Sar Prison in Phnom Penh, but a court order is needed for such a visit.

However, a legal team from the Thai Patriots Network which is now in Phnom Penh was not allowed to meet them.

"We have a certified document from the Thai Embassy but we don't know why they did not allow us to meet the suspects," said ex-Buri Ram senator Karoon Saignarm, part of the legal team.

"We have been here since Monday to prepare relevant documents on our planned visit.".

Fellow team member Nataporn Toprayoon, adviser at the Office of the Ombudsman, said the two Cambodian lawyers representing the Thai suspects did not have enough information to help fight the charges.

They just questioned Thai suspects and officials of the Thai Foreign Ministry through Thai-Khmer interpreters before presenting to the court, he said.

"This put [the seven Thais] at a disadvantage," he said.

Mr Nataporn said his legal team has evidence to submit to the court that the seven Thais arrested by Cambodian soldiers did not actually trespass into Cambodia but were on Thai soil.

"We will go back to the Cambodian Interior Ministry again to insist on our demands," said Mr Nataporn.

The Thai Patriots Network is calling for the resignation of Mr Abhisit, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon.

The group is frustrated over the government's stance that the seven were arrested on Cambodian soil, as it does not believe this is true.

Seoul court orders airline crash payout

via CAAI

Jan 14, 2011

SEOUL - A SEOUL court on Friday ordered a Cambodian airline to pay 3.2 billion won (S$3.6 million) in compensation to the families of passengers killed in a 2007 plane crash.

PMT Air's Antonov An-24 crashed in southern Cambodia in June 2007 on its way from the north-western tourist hub of Siem Reap to the beach resort of Sihanoukville. All 22 people aboard were killed, including 13 tourists from South Korea.

The plane appeared to have hit a mountain in bad weather, according to Nuon Sary, deputy police chief of Cambodia's Kampot province, at the time.

Eleven families of the South Korean victims filed suit in 2008 seeking 4.5 billion won in compensation. They claimed the accident was caused by human error and mechanical defects.

'The company (PMT Air) stopped operating in 2008 and our investigation team found that it was the bad weather that caused the crash,' said Him Sarun, cabinet chief for Cambodia's Secretariat of Civil Aviation.

'The company said that it has asked its insurance company to compensate the victims,' he told AFP. -- AFP

Cambodian court rejects bail bids for five detained Thais

via CAAI

BANGKOK, Jan 14 -- The Cambodian court on Friday rejected bail bids for five Thais detained in Phnom Penh after granting bail for two of them Thursday, including Democrat lawmaker Panich Vikitsreth, MP for Bangkok, according to Foreign Ministry Information Department of Information Director General Thani Thongphakdi.

Mr Thani said the ministry was informed by the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh that the court has denied bail bids without giving any reason and the legal team for the Thai detainees immediately resubmitted the request and the result is expected to be known by next week as court normally takes five days for consideration.

The bail request had earlier submitted to the court on Monday.

Mr Thani also said that Cambodia's Interior Ministry had agreed in principle to allow an adviser to the Thai Patriots Network, former senator Karun Sai-ngam, and a legal team from the network, to visit the five detained Thais at Phnom Penh's Prey Sar Prison.

The time and date of the visit would be set later, he said.

The network team and the legal team have not met as the Cambodian lawyers were not ready to meet, Mr Thani said, adding that if the network legal team wanted to join the Cambodian lawyers to help the Thais, they must receive approval from the Cambodian Lawyers Council.

The director general said Mr Panich and Ms Naruemol Chitwaratana of the People’s Network Against Corruption and Santi Asoke networks who were granted bail Thursday were still staying at the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh but if the they wanted to stay elsewhere it was possible as the court only barred them from leaving Cambodia.

The seven were arrested Dec 29 by the Cambodian authorities for illegal entry into Banteay Meanchey province.

The detainees face two initial charges -- illegal entry into the Cambodian kingdom, with possible punishment of three to six months jail and deportation, and also trespass on a Cambodian military zone, punishable by three to six months jail and Bt7,500-15,000 in fines.

Veera Somkwamkid, leader of the Thai Patriots Network, and his secretary Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, however, face additional spying charges on top of illegal entry and trespassing on a Cambodian military area, which has been already heard.

The government prosecutor alleged that they had gathered security information that could pose a severe threat to Cambodian security.

In a related development, Chaiwat Sinsuwong, leader of the Thailand Patriots Network, said on Friday that the group decided not to rally at Thai-Cambodian border in Aranyaprathet district, Sa Kaeo province as earlier planned, explaining that the network still waits and sees reaction of local residents whether or not they will cooperate with the group in investigating and inspecting illegal business activities on the border.

He said that local residents had already provided information on illegal business to the network during the previous meeting in the area.

Meanwhile, Mr Chaiwat also said that a legal team from the Thailand Patriots Network led by Karun met with Mr Veera.

The group also threatened to mobilise supporters at the Ministry of Defence, aiming to oust Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan whom they accused of acknowledging that the seven were on Cambodian territory when arrested. (MCOT online news)

Senior Cambodian police officers charged with drug-related corruption

via CAAI

By The Associated Press (CP)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Two senior Cambodian police officers were charged Friday with corruption, while a top anti-drug official has been detained for questioning, an anti-corruption official said.

A provincial police chief and his deputy were charged by the Banteay Meanchey provincial court, said Om Yentieng, head of the government's anti-corruption unit.

They were arrested several days ago by the anti-corruption unit on suspicion of taking bribes to release drug trafficking suspects, he said.

Om Yentieng also said the secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs has been detained on suspicion of activities related to drug trafficking and is being questioned.

Under Cambodia's first anti-corruption law, passed last year after more than a decade of delays, any official found guilty of taking bribes faces up to 15 years in prison. Cambodia, a poor country heavily dependent on foreign aid, is routinely listed by groups such as Transparency International as one of the most corrupt in Asia.

Om Yentieng said his agency found that the officers in Banteay Meanchey had received bribes from drug traffickers.

"After arresting the traffickers, they received the offenders' money for changing the confessions and the report," he said.

Weekly highlights

via CAAI

Published: 14/01/2011

The foolhardy adventurism of seven Thais remains the talk of the town two weeks after their arrest by Cambodian soldiers. Meanwhile in Bangkok, business owners at Ratchaprasong intersection can no longer tolerate the red-shirt protests and ask the UDD to give them a break.

The border intrusion saga involving seven Thais who were caught by Cambodian forces before the year's end took a turn for the better, but only slightly, when the Phnom Penh Municipal Court decided on Thursday to release two of the detainees on bail.

The Thai embassy in Phnom Penh put up one million riel, about 7,500 baht, for each of them - Democrat MP for Bangkok Panich Vikitsreth and Ms Narumol Chivarattana. They were released on the condition they must not leave Cambodia and must report to authorities when summoned.

Mr Panich and Ms Narumol have taken temporary refuge at the Thai embassy.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya disclosed that a group of Cambodian border crossers held in Thailand were sent home in return for the release of the two Thais.

The other five Thais, including Veera Somkwamkid, a leader of the Thai Patriots Network, a splinter faction of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, and his secretary Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, were still being detained at Prey Sar prison in the Cambodian capital on charges of illegal entry and trespassing on a military area. Mr Veera and Ms Ratree each face an additional charge of spying.

Yellow-shirt activist Veera Somkwamkid (centre left) and Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth (centre right) are escorted by Cambodian police at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Jan 6, 2011.

The seven were arrested while on a trip they said was to investigate alleged intrusions into Thailand near a border village in Sa Kaeo province by Cambodian people. A video clip posted on YouTube showed Mr Panich, talking with a man via mobile phone and admitting that his team was on Cambodian soil. The inspection trip led by Mr Panich had the blessing of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Meanwhile in Bangkok, members of the Thai Patriots Network (TPN) led by Chaiwat Sinsuwong rallied in front of Government House Thursday to demand the resignation of Mr Abhisit and Mr Kasit. They threatened to block the Aranyaprathet-Poipet border crossing, which is a major trading post for Thais and Cambodians alike. Besides, the Cambodian border town of Poipet boasts several casinos which attract thousands of Thai punters, especially on weekends.

But TPN members will face stiff resistance if they carry on with their threat to shut the border checkpoint. Some 1,500 local people from several districts of Sa Kaeo province staged a rally Thursday at Muang district to protest against the TPN, which was later reported to have cancelled the protest.

On the political front, the main spotlight of the week was on the conflict between the Democrats and their coalition partners over a single issue in the charter amendments bill which passed the first reading in the parliament and which narrowly won the endorsement of the constitutional amendments scrutiny committee by only 18 votes to 17 on Tuesday, with the chairman casting the deciding vote.

The issue is about the proportion of constituency and party list MPs in the House of Representatives. The amendments bill seeks to change the ratio from 400 for constituency MPs and 80 list MPs to 375 and 125 respectively. The coalition parties, minus the Democrats, want the seating formula to revert to the 400 and 100 formula specified in the previous constitution of 1997.

The minor coalition parties, which include Bhumjaithai, Chart Thai Pattana and Puea Pandin, argue that the 375 plus 125 formula will benefit only the Democrats, as it will help them win more party list seats.

After their proposed formula was outvoted in the constitutional amendments scrutiny committee led by Democrat MP Therdpong Chaiyanant, Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kachornprasart of the Chart Thai Pattana Party told reporters that he was confident that their formula would, in the end, be accepted.

So far, the Democrats have stuck to their guns and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban has been assigned to discuss the matter with the coalition partners.

The opposition Puea Thai Party has supported the dissenting coalition parties’ formula although they have boycotted the government’s charter amendments bill from the very beginning. The party wants to revive the 1997 charter with changes made to the chapter regarding the Privy Council.

Another significant event of the week was the rally on Tuesday by some 2,000 business operators, vendors, employees and residents at Ratchaprasong shopping district against red-shirt protests, which they say have seriously affected their lives, businesses and livelihood generally.

The Ratchaprasong Square Traders Association said that red-shirt protests during March and May last year caused big losses for some 2,000 business operators, to the tune of 11.2 billion baht, and that the protest on Sunday Jan 9 this year alone cost them about 100 million baht in lost sales.

RSTA wants the red-shirts to protest elsewhere and the government to find a suitable location for future gatherings by all political groups. The traders also called on the government to accelerate the passing of a law on public gatherings to ensure that such activities do not cause hardship or inconvenience to other people.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva

A discussion is under way between representatives of the red-shirt movement and the Ratchaprasong business operators about the next protest, scheduled for Jan 23, at Ratchaprasong intersection.

Another topical political issue of the week was the government’s nine New Year "gifts" for the Thai people announced by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva last week as part of the government’s ambitious Pracha Wiwat programme.

The nine gifts are; continued free electricity for households which use less than 90 units a month; credit arrangements for taxi drivers to buy new cars; social security coverage for informal workers; registration of motorcycle taxi-drivers so they are freed from having to pay under-the-table fees to loca mafia; additional trading spots for vendors; and the freezing of the price of LPG for home and transport sector use.

Criticism of the handouts range from borrowing future money to curry favour from voters ahead of the coming general election and putting the burden on future generations, weakening the Thai people to the extent that they will have to depend on government handouts, and potentially bankrupting the economy.

Among the critics was Privy Councillor Kasem Wattanachai, who voiced serious concern over the populist policies. He said that politicians all over the world are of the same mould – that is, they care only about getting votes in an election.

NPP: Revoke Thai-Cambodian MoU

via CAAI

Published: 14/01/2011

The New Politics Party has called on the government to revoke the memorandum of understanding on the border signed by Thailand and Cambodia in 2000 and to press Cambodia to release the five Thais still detained at Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh.

Representatives of the New Politics Party, founded by the yellow-shirt People's Alliance for Democracy, went to Government House on Friday morning to submit a letter to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

They demanded the government revoke the 2000 MoU on the Thai-Cambodian border and the Thai-Cambodian Joint Border Commission, as they believed Cambodia violated Thai sovereignty.

They wanted the Cambodian government free all seven arrested Thais unconditionally.

The seven, including Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth and yellow-shirt activist Veera Somkwamkid, have been charged with trespassing on Cambodian territory and intruding into a military zone on Dec 29.

Two of the seven - Mr Panich and yellow-shirt member Narumol Jitrawarattana - have been released on bail by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday.

Mr Veera, who has previously been arrested for illegal entry into Cambodia, and a woman, have also been charged with spying.

Three More Thai Detainees In Cambodia May Be Released

via CAAI

BANGKOK, Jan 14 (Bernama) -- The Phnom Penh court is expected to grant bail for temporary release to three more Thai detainees in Cambodia -- after two out of the seven Thai detainees in the Cambodian capital were released on bail on Thursday.

However, bail is unlikely for Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipatanapaibul, who were additionally charged with espionage.

All the seven Thai nationals -- who were arrested by Cambodian soldiers in a border area on December 29 -- were charged with illegally trespassing onto the Cambodian soil.

Two of them, Panich Vikitsreth, a Bangkok MP of the Thailand's ruling Democrat Party, and Naruemol Jitwaratana, were first granted bail by the Cambodian Court Thursday.

Both of them are staying at the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh.

Meanwhile, Thai Army commander-in-chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said that the Royal Thai Army has sent its public relations officers to talk with local people in Sa Kaeo Province who oppose activists of Veera's Thai Patriots Network plan to rally at the Aranyaprathet border checkpoint in the province to protest against the Cambodian arrest of the seven Thai people, as the Royal Thai Army does not want to see Thai people clash with one another.

The situations along the Thai-Cambodian border in Aranyaprathet district and other areas have, however, remained normal.

Thai Navy chief-of-staff Admiral Thakerngsak Wangkaew said that naval officers of the Navy's Chanthaburi-Trat Task Force have also conducted naval patrols along the border in areas under their jurisdiction.

He confirmed that relations between Thai and Cambodian navies have been good, and that both sides have regularly visited and informed each other of their movements in advance.

Thai demonstrators call for tougher stand against Cambodia

via CAAI

Jan 14, 2011

Bangkok - Several hundred Thai protestors gathered at Government House and the Defence Ministry in Bangkok Friday to demand a tougher stand against Cambodia for its arrest of seven Thais along the two countries' border.

The demonstrators called for the resignation of Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan for allegedly failing to respond adequately to the arrest of the seven Thais by Cambodian authorities on charges of trespassing on Cambodian territory on December 29.

The protestors identified themselves as members of the Thai Patriots Network, which had earlier planned to march along the border near the Thai town of Aranyaprathet to voice their outrage at the Cambodian government.

'For the time being we won't go to Aranyaprathet,' said Thai Patriots Network leader Chaiwat Sinsuwong. 'But our duty still remains.'

Chaiwat insisted the seven arrested Thais, including member of parliament from the ruling Democrat Party Panich Vikitsreth and Veera Somkwamkid, an activist in the nationalist movement known as the yellow shirts, had been on Thai territory when they were detained by Cambodian troops.

During an earlier court hearing in Cambodia, Panich's lawyer said he had been visiting a border village 'to address the complaints of [Thai] villagers,' adding that the villagers had alleged that a border marker had been moved by Cambodians to encroach on Thai territory.

The protestors' proposed protest march along the border has been strongly opposed by the Thai government and by residents of the area who depend on cross-border trade for their livelihoods.

Earlier Friday, representatives of the New Politics Party, an offshoot of the yellow-shirted People's Alliance for Democracy, submitted a letter to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva demanding that he revoke a border agreement signed in 2000 due to alleged violations of Thai sovereignty by Cambodian forces.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban on Friday criticized the Thai Patriots Network and its allies for playing politics with the already volatile Thai-Cambodia border situation.

'Although the patriots have the constitutional right to peaceful assembly, they are obligated not to cause any disruptions to the people,' Suthep said.

Thai FM Urges Cambodia To Speed Up Legal Process On 7 Thai Detainees

via CAAI

TIMOR-LESTE, Jan 14 (Bernama) -- Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya urged Cambodian authorities to speed up legal process on seven Thais arrested for illegally entering Cambodia and move on with numerous tasks on bilateral cooperation for mutual benefits, Thai News Agency (TNA) reported.

During his visit to Timor Leste on Thursday, Kasit gave the comment after two of the seven Thais were granted bail by Cambodian Court, that Cambodia could quickly resolve the case, as it was not a matter of serious crime, and that Thailand was ready for a swift settlement after it had made forthright clarifications.

He said previously in the past 3-4 months, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had already met with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen four times, and therefore, the case of the seven Thais should not hinder bilateral cooperation.

Kasit is on an official visit to Timor-Leste for the first time since assuming his post, where he was welcome by Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta, and is scheduled for courtesy calls with Timorese Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao and President of the National Parliament Fernando de Araujo, on Friday.

The Thai Foreign Minister's agenda for discussion during his Timor visit include bilateral cooperation in the fields of technical assistance, fishery, education and energy, together with conveying Thailand's support for Timor-Leste's prospective Asean membership.

After the Timor-Leste visit, Kasit will attend the Asean Ministerial Meeting Retreat in Lombok Island of Indonesia starting from Saturday, during which he will hold a sideline meeting with his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong.

Cambodia's Khmer Rouge leaders ordered sent to trial after indictments upheld

via CAAI

By Associated Press
January 13, 2011

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia's U.N.-backed genocide tribunal has refused to drop indictments against four former senior members of the Khmer Rouge, rejecting their appeals.

The tribunal says Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologist; Khieu Samphan, its head of state; Ieng Sary, its foreign minister; and his wife Ieng Thirith, who was minister for social affairs, were ordered Thursday to be sent for trial. Court officials have suggested the trial would start midyear.

Charges against the four include crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and murder, torture and religious persecution. An estimated 1.7 million people died under the Khmer Rouge's rule in the late 1970s.

The regime's chief jailer was convicted last year of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Cambodia grants bail to two Thais

via CAAI

The Nation (Thailand)
Publication Date : 14-01-2011

Cambodia should free the rest of the Thai detainees now that Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth and yellow-shirt activist Narumol Jitrawarattana have been released on bail Thursday (January 13), Thai foreign minister Kasit Piromya said.

Panich and six yellow-shirt activists, including Veera Somkwamkid, were arrested late last month while allegedly inspecting the disputed border area near Sa Kaew province's Ban Nong Chan town.

They are being prosecuted in Phnom Penh for unlawfully entering Cambodian territory and a military zone. Veera and his aide Ratree Pipatanapaiboon face additional charges of espionage.

The Thai embassy covered the bail of one million Cambodian riel or 7,500 baht (US$246) for each individual released from the Prey Sar prison yesterday, and provided them with accommodation. Panich and Narumol need to remain on Cambodian soil so they can appear in court when summoned, Kasit's secretary Chavanond Intarakomalyasut said.

A request for the bail of all seven Thai nationals was filed on Monday and the court is considering each on a case-by-case basis.

"We want all seven (to be freed on bail) and hope the court makes a decision soon," Kasit told reporters. "Thai people would like to see this incident come to an end soon, because the two countries have many other things to do that are mutually beneficial."

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva called Panich to provide him moral support and assure him that the government was working hard for their safe release. The Democrat MP did not speak to reporters waiting in front of the Thai embassy, while Narumol allowed his photo to be taken.

Despite Panich and Naurmol getting temporary release, things did not calm down back home as more members of the yellow-shirt Thai Patriots Network joined the rally in front of Government House and the foreign ministry.

They demanded that Abhisit, Kasit, Chavanond and Thai ambassador to Cambodia Prasas Prasasvinitchai step down for failing to secure the detainees' release.

A group of protesters surrounded the foreign ministry, blocking the gates for hours. The ministry's permanent secretary, Theerakul Niyom, instructed officials to leave the premises via a secret door, but the protesters found out and blocked it too.

Theerakul later had a hole dug in the wall so officials could make their way out until the police arrived and negotiated with the protesters.

Later, the yellow-shirt protesters threatened to shut down the border checkpoint at Sa Kaew's Aranyaprathet district if the government did not move to get their colleagues released. This threat was met by more than 1,500 local residents gathering in front of the Aranyaprathet Municipality Office, voicing their opposition to the "patriots" closing the border because it would affect trade and tourism.

Cambodian vendor Huan Sey, who regularly crosses over to make purchases in Aranyaprathet, said Poi Pet residents were worried that the border closure would affect businesses.

"We have more than 100 million baht ($3.28 million) worth of goods in Thai warehouses waiting to cross the border," she said, adding that many of her fellow vendors had decided not to trade Thursday because they were not unsure about the situation.

Commander of the Burapha task force Valit Rojanapakdi, who oversees the border area, also called on the yellow-shirt group to desist from shutting down the border as it could worsen the situation and lead to clashes with local residents. "If they really care for the country, they should not be pressuring the authorities in this manner," he said.

Buying Cambodia’s killing fields

 via CAAI

12 january, 2011

Producer Jo Mathys recording an interview for Crossing Continents' Cambodia: Country for Sale

Crossing Continents reporter Mukul Devichand describes his trip to Cambodia to try to understand why global investors are suddenly fighting to snap up cheap fertile paddy fields from poor villagers, who claim they are being exploited and intimidated.

“There aren’t meant to be any landmines here,” says my producer Jo Mathys.

We’ve followed the rulebook on operating in potentially unsafe environments and made several checks before driving to this remote village in Cambodia’s far north.

But sometimes, even the best checks only get you so far.

Outside the car window is a very large flag with a skull and crossbones – the international symbol for mines.

It’s a clear warning, do not tread here.

New conflict


Journalistically, this is the most difficult part of the assignment. While there are no end of non-governmental organisations eager to take us to villages where they claim there was wrongdoing, the business community - perhaps understandably - are wary of foreign reporters.

Crossing Continents reporter Mukul Devichand

Land mines are just one of the perils of reporting in Cambodia.

But as we travel around the country making an edition of Crossing Continents – the BBC radio documentary series on world affairs – it soon dawns on us that much of what goes on here relates to recent history and a very painful conflict.

The country fell under the rule of leader Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge party from 1975-9, whose ‘social engineering’ policies resulted in the deaths of an estimated two million people. And for more than a decade after that, the Khmer Rouge were locked in a guerrilla war with the new, Vietnamese-backed government.

Twelve years after Pol Pot’s militia finally collapsed, we’re here to look at the way the government has opened up the country’s land to private and foreign investors.

These measures have resulted in a new type of conflict. Today villagers are saying that they’re being displaced so that their land can be sold.

Investigating allegations

Back in the car, with the skull and crossbones still staring us in the face, there’s a long and uncomfortable pause as Jo, myself and our local colleague Yin Soeum make calls and speak to locals in Khmer and English.
Crossing Continents reporter Mukul Devichand

We ascertain that the path to the village we are visiting is, in fact, landmine free and well trodden.

Indeed, the warning sign turns out to be a part of the story.

Mines have now been cleared here, but it only happened when a private company took over the village’s land to turn it into a sugar plantation.

And we are here to investigate claims that these villagers have been forcefully evicted by the company.

Fallout from history

So we get out of the car and set out on the long walk to O’Batman village, led by locals through the humid afternoon air.

There’s not much to look at when we arrive. The burnt out shells of the villagers’ old homes are behind a perimeter fence, guarded by armed police.

The villagers say they were chased out and their houses set alight by authorities, shortly before a Thai investor acquired the land.

Investors often say villagers like these are ‘squatters’, because they don’t have documents to prove they own the fields being taken over.

Land being built on by developers, photographed while recording the programme

And technically they are right because the Khmer Rouge, deciding to turn back the clock to ‘year zero’, burned all land deeds back in the 1970s.

So, just like the land mines, this current conflict is a direct result of the fallout from Cambodia’s painful history.

Uncomfortable moments
A few days later, back in the capital Pnomh Penh, Jo and I are in the more congenial surrounds of the Metro Cafe.

It’s a favourite place for casual business meetings and the best venue in town to meet investors from abroad.

We’re keen to know what these investors think, so we take it in turns to strike up conversations with bemused-looking foreign businessmen, using our smatterings of Hindi and Mandarin, as well as English.

Journalistically, this is the most difficult part of the assignment. While there are no end of non-governmental organisations eager to take us to villages where they claim there was wrongdoing, the business community - perhaps understandably - are wary of foreign reporters.

After a number of dead-end conversations, I finally strike gold.

Winners and losers

Producer Jo Mathys recording street sounds for the documentary

The next morning I'm in a motorcycle rickshaw on the way to meet George, a Chinese Malaysian investor.

He introduces me to Liv Sokhpetra, his local business partner. Aged 28, having already made millions of dollars in land and other deals, this intriguing man (who goes by the nickname 'Petra') becomes a big part of our documentary and an indicator to what Cambodia's new elite really thinks.

Petra transports us around in his own four-wheel drive.

He maintains he has never 'grabbed' land, but acknowledges there are many losers in the new investment rush.

"It's just too bad for them," he tells me.

Like every Cambodian, he's seen much pain in his own lifetime and any form of change is welcome.

Khmer Rouge Defendants To Remain in Custody for Trial

Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Friday, 14 January 2011

via CAAI

Photo: AP
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia, (ECCC).

“If the trial keeps getting delayed further and further, Nuon Chea's lawyer team will find ways to ask the court to release our client on bail.”

The Pre-Trial Chamber of the Khmer Rouge tribunal has affirmed the indictments of four regime leaders and determined it will keep them in provisional detention ahead of trial.

The court said in a statement Thursday it has officially “ordered the accused persons to be sent for trial and to continue to be held in provisional detention until they are brought before the Trial Chamber.”

The announcement means no claims by the defense to end the trial process were admitted by the chamber.

Four seniors leaders—Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith—are awaiting trial for atrocity crimes, including genocide, with the trial process expected to begin later this year.

Lawyers for the accused say their clients have been detained past the maximum three-year period allowed by law.

“If the trial keeps getting delayed further and further, Nuon Chea's lawyer team will find ways to ask the court to release our client on bail,” defense attorney Son Arun said.

The three-year pre-trial detention period expired at the end of 2010, but the rules of the court are open to some interpretation.

Phat Povsean, a lawyer for former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith, said the defense can only argue about court procedures to the Trial Chamber, but the Pre-Trial Chamber's decision is final.

Officials Begin Asset Declaration to Counter Corruption

Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Friday, 14 January 2011

via CAAI

Photo: AP
Cambodia is ranked No. 154 of 178 countries for corruption by Transparency International

“The asset declaration is a legal measure to prevent corruption.”

More than 100,000 government officials have begun the task of asset declaration, a secret process required by the new anti-corruption law aimed at helping in investigations.

Government ministry officials have until March to add up their worth and send it to anti-corruption authorities, as the country tries to tackle a deeply ingrained culture of graft.

“The asset declaration is a legal measure to prevent corruption,” said Keo Remy, spokesman for the National Anti-Corruption Council, which, along with the separate Anti-Corruption Unit, was formed by the new law as well. “The asset declaration is made in secret, a first and historic condition to safeguard each official’s physical and mental safety, and particularly the country’s political stability.”

Officials from the rank of undersecretary and chief of department up are to fill in declaration forms, which include property listings, to make future auditing for corrupt practices easier.

Nov Sowatharo, secretary of state for the Ministry of Information, said the process was not complicated. It required filling out two sets of forms and putting them into two envelops.

“We filled out the form secretly,” he said. “After closing the envelops, we give it to the ministry's agent, who submits ministry officials' declarations to the Anti-Corruption Unit.”

The ACU then takes the envelops, stamps them with a seal and returns one copy to the owner.

Sean Borath, deputy chief of the ACU, said no one has the authority to open the envelops, unless an official is suspected of corruption. The sealed declaration then becomes part of an investigation and is opened.

Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, said the secret nature of the declarations means less transparency and the potential for abuse. “I believe that a secret asset declaration has little effectiveness,” he said.

Keo Remy said secret asset declaration was built into the law, which passed last year after decades of drafts and delays. The law provides punishment of up to 15 years in jail for the worst offenses.

Supporters of the law say it will help improve Cambodia's poor corruption record. The country is ranked No. 154 of 178 countries for corruption by Transparency International.

The light of enlightenment

via CAAI

Friday, 14 January 2011 15:01 Heng Chivoan

Manh Loy, the 85-year-old keeper of Prasat Porthilom at Wat Ounalom in downtown Phnom Penh, lights incense before placing it in front of a Buddha statue at the temple. Wat Ounalom, established in 1422, is one of Phnom Penh’s five original monasteries.

AKP - Agent Kampuchea Press

via CAAI

PM Receives Chinese Company’s President

Phnom Penh, January 14, 2011 AKP – Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, received here yesterday Mr. Lu Wen Jun, president of the China National Heavy Machinery Corporation, in charge of the construction of Stung Tatai Hydropower Dam in Koh Kong province.

During the meeting, Mr. Lu Wen Jun told Samdech Techo Hun Sen that this hydropower project will be completed by the end of 2013. He also informed the Cambodian premier of the power distribution project around Phnom Penh city and he is committed to accelerate this work.

In reply, the Cambodian prime minister praised for the Chinese company’s efforts. Regarding the power distribution network, he recommended Mr. Lu Wen Jun to work with the Cambodian Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy.

Samdech Techo Hun Sen also reiterated the support of the royal government to the contribution of private companies in establishing power distribution network.

The construction of Stung Tatai Hydropower Dam, in Thmar Baing district, Koh Kong province, begun Wednesday in a groundbreaking ceremony presided over by Samdech Techo Hun Sen.

China National Heavy Machinery was granted with a 42-year investment concession with five years projected for the construction of 246-megawatt Stung Tatai Hydropower Dam at the estimated cost of US$540 million, and the rest 37 years for business operation. –AKP

Article in Khmer by CHIM Nary
Article in English by SOKMOM Nimul

Cambodia, Vietnam To Spend US$1.5 Million for Topographic Border Map

Phnom Penh, January 14, 2011 AKP – The Cambodian and Vietnamese governments have agreed to spend some US$1,528,333 for a Danish company to produce both countries’ Topographic Border Map.

The contract for the production of the map was signed here yesterday by H.E. Var Kimhong, Cambodian senior minister in charge of border affairs and chairman of the Cambodia-Vietnam joint border committee; Mr. Ho Xuan Son, Vietnamese deputy foreign minister and chairman of the Vietnam-Cambodia joint border committee; and Mr. Claus Poetzsch, Director International Business at BlomInfo A/S, a land surveying company from Denmark.

The mapping process will conclude in July 2012, said H.E. Var Kimhong, adding that the new maps will help the two countries to have a clear border with friendship and development.

Cambodia and Vietnam share the common border of 1,270 kilometers with 375 border markers. –AKP

By KHAN Sophirom

Two Arrested Thais Released on Bail

Phnom Penh, January 14, 2011 AKP – Two of the seven Thais arrested near the border on Dec. 29, 2010 were released on bail on Jan. 13 by Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Thai Democratic Party lawmaker Panich Vikisreth and house keeper Naruemol Chitwaratana were released temporary, but they are not allowed to go outside Cambodia while under investigation.

The seven Thais were arrested by Cambodian border protection army at the border pole No. 46 in Chok Chey village, O Beichuan commune, O Chrov district, Banteay Meanchey province. They were charged on Dec. 30, 2010 for illegal entry into Cambodia and bandit deed to enter military base.

Of the five Thais remaining in custody awaiting trial, Veera Somkwamkid, a core member of Thailand Patriot Network, and Ratree Taiputana Taiboon, known as Veera’s woman secretary, faced additional charge of an attempt in “collecting information which might damage Cambodia’s national security”. –AKP


TVK To Product Documentary Film on Dancing Across Borders

Phnom Penh, January 14, 2011 AKP – The National Television of Cambodia (TVK) is planning to produce a documentary film on Dancing Across Borders to broadcast on TVK’s screen.

TVK will cooperate with Mrs. Anne Bass, director/producer of art documentary films and Silapak Khmer Amatak (Cambodian Living Arts) Organization to produce this documentary film, TVK Director General H.E. Kim Kunnawadh told reporters upon the meeting between Information Minister H.E. Khieu Kanharith and Mrs. Anne Bass here on Jan. 12.

Cambodian Information Minister H.E. Khieu Kanharith expressed his support to this documentary film making project, stressing that it will show Cambodia’s image not only in terms of intangible heritage such as ancient temples, but also in other fields, H.E. Kim Kunnawadh said.

During the meeting, he added, Mr. Hoeun Prin, assistant to Mrs. Anne Bass and managing director of Silapak Khmer Amatak Organization, said he is seeking partners to organize a festival between April and May 2013 in New York, Paris and Tokyo to show Cambodian culture, arts and the firmness of Cambodia’s field of arts.

The event will also include film projection and a conference on Cambodian tangible and intangible arts, Mr. Hoeun Prin indicated. –AKP

Article in Khmer by HUN Yuth Kun
Article in English by SOKMOM Nimul

CRC Gives Donation to Poor People in Banteay Meanchey

Phnom Penh, January 14, 2011 AKP – Cambodian Red Cross (CRC) President Mrs. Bun Rany Hun Sen paid a visit on Thursday to 2,052 families of HIV/AIDS patients, orphans, disabled and elderly people in Banteay Meanchey province.

On the occasion, the CRC president also gave donation to those families coming from five cities and districts of Banteay Meanchey and medicine to provincial referral hospitals.

Mrs. Bun Rany Hun Sen said the donation is the contribution from local and overseas charitable people. –AKP


First Ever Library for Prisoners To Be Established

Phnom Penh, January 14, 2011 AKP – The prisoners at Prey Sar prison located in the southern part of Phnom Penh will have access to a library to be established soon with the support of NGO SIPAR.

SIPAR will provide 4,000 books related to culture, agriculture, trade, history and health, etc. to this first ever library, said Mr. Chhoeung Cheng Hak, SIPAR reading development program coordinator.

The US$30,000 library is a SIPAR’s pilot project with an aim to create the culture of reading in all places, he said, adding that the project is based on the “right to education of all people”.

For his part, Heng Hak, director general of the Prisons Department of the Ministry of Interior, said the library will help increase prisoners’ knowledge and morality so that they will not commit infractions again.

According to Mr. Heng Hak, there are over 14,000 prisoners in different prisons throughout the country. –AKP

By LIM Nary

AKP, Phnom Penh, January 14, 2011

Cambodia Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen meets here on Jan. 13 with a delegation of CHMC (China National Heavy Machinery) led by its president Mr. Lu Wen Jun.

In the meeting, Cambodian premier has offered Mr. Lu to work with Cambodia’s Ministry of Industry, Mine and Energy over the electricity line project.

Photo: Chey Phum Pul

AKP, Phnom Penh, January 14, 2011

Cambodia Deputy Prime Minister H.E Keat Chhon, Minister of the Ministry of Economy and Finance accompanied by his ministry officials pays a visiting tour in this week at sugar can factory in Koh Kong province’s Sre Ambel district.

Photo: Hun Yuth Kun

AKP, Phnom Penh, January 14, 2011

A signing agreement on Cambodia-Vietnam Boundary Map Publishing was signed yesterday in Phnom Penh by H.E Var Kimhong, Border Committee President of Cambodia, H.E Ho Yuan Son, Vietnam’s Foreign Deputy MinisterAnd Mr. Claus Poetzsch, Representative of publishing company BLUM.

Photo: Hun Yuth Kun

AKP, Phnom Penh, January 14, 2011

The Leadership of Agence Kampuchea Presse receives here today H.E Kazi Imtia Hossain, Bangladeshi ambassador to Cambodia. The Bangladeshi diplomat wishes to promote relationship between Cambodia and Bangladesh through news media. The AKP leadership accepts the initiative and welcomes any cooperation with Bangladeshi government’s news agency.

Photo: Hun Yuth Kun

AKP, Phnom Penh, January 14, 2011

A workshop on Anti-Measles Vaccine Contribution Raid to the children from age of 9 to 59 months in the capital was held today here by Phnom Penh Health Office.

Photo: Ouk Sakheoun

AKP, Phnom Penh, January 14, 2011

A plenary session for the total work of education in 2010-2011 and setting up the work direction for 2011-2012 of Preah Sihanouk Province was held on Jan. 12 under the presidency of Mr. Keo Lay, Head of Provincial Education Office.

According to the session, there are 38 classrooms of kindergarten school with 1048 children, 72 primary schools with 29,912 students and 26 secondary and high schools with 9,460 students.

Photo: Ngo Sovann, AKP-Preah Sihanouk

Seven Thais Detained for Trespassing and Intrusion Must Face Cambodia’s Legal Process to go through its motions

Phnom Penh, January 14, 2011 AKP–(Editorial)

Some Thai ultra-nationalists, including the Thai Yellow Shirt members are trying to mislead their own people and the world public by insisting that Cambodia is politicizing the case of the seven Thais who had intruded into sovereign Cambodian territory intentionally. They are deliberately and systematically embarking on a mission to mislead and hoodwink people that the Thais were arrested on their side of the border when the detained Thais had self incriminating evidence which proves beyond doubt that they had intentionally and deliberately trespassed into Cambodian territory.

The arrested seven includes a Democratic Bangkok lawmaker Panich Vikitsreth. The Thais cannot even get their act together. While the yellow shirts claimed the seven were arrested in Thai territory, others argued that the group, including a leading member of the Thailand Patriot Network, Veera Somkwamkid, was apprehended on the disputed area.

Irrespective of what the misled and misinformed Thai agent provocateurs are claiming and spreading malicious rumors, the cold hard truth remains and cannot be changed or altered to suit political expediency or change its factual data to suit Thailand’s internal and domestic political agenda. The facts are indisputable. Video and documentary evidence, including that of the Thai military themselves that the seven had intruded well into Cambodian territory and had even ignored Thai military efforts to stop.

The fact remains that that the seven had intruded not meters but 1.2 kms into sovereign Cambodian territory on December 29, 2010 and had videotaped themselves while doing so, a self incriminating act which cannot be disputed as witnessed the world over, including Thailand. To be explicitly clear, the seven they were apprehended 1.2 km inside Cambodian territory in O’ Beichoan commune, O’Chrov district, Banteay Meanchey province.

They did not only enter Cambodia illegally, they also trespassed into a Cambodian military base there. For those who are unsure of what had transpired and happened with the seven, they should take steps to learn more about the factual situation on the ground before making noises as empty vessels makes the most noise. Thus, it is worthwhile to recall the video clip of Panich’s conversation with his secretary alias Q, quoted verbatim as saying “we are now in Cambodian territory but do not tell anyone else “or let” others know about it, only the PM knows. Tell him to be quiet about this. If there is something happening, I will coordinate/make contact. Tell him (PM) we have crossed.” In one part of the third video, Veera said “Let’s go, if we go there, we will get arrested for sure.” These video footages, which have been well published by national and foreign media, were captured by one of the seven Thais who was detained in Cambodia. Their activities were also confirmed by Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya who said that the seven were inside Cambodian when they were arrested. Cambodia’s chairman of the joint border committee, Var Kimhong, said that the area visited by the seven Thais had already been demarcated.

So there was no doubt that that Cambodian forces or authorities had crossed the border into Thailand and grabbed the seven just to detain at Prey Sar prison because, if the Cambodians were to have done that, the roles would have been reversed and Cambodian authorities/forces would have been in Thai prisons and accused of trespassing. The group, which was led by the Veera and Panich, are the main instigators of anti-Cambodia actions and should blame themselves for violating Cambodia’s sovereignty. Now the ball is squarely in the court’s hand and the seven Thai suspects, including journalists, have to face Cambodia’s law and legal procedures. This cannot be circumvented or violated.

The seven have been charged with illegal entry under the immigration law and fraudulently entering a Cambodian military area under the newly enacted penal code. If convicted they would get between three to six months imprisonment in addition to up to $500 in fine.

The trial court of Phnom Penh also charged Veera Somkwamkid and his secretary Ratree Pipatanapaiboon with espionage given the fact that they intruded into a sensitive Cambodian military zone an attempted to collect information that could affect Cambodia’s national defense. The offence of espionage carries up to 10 years imprisonment if convicted.

Although the suspects admitted that they were on Cambodia’s land, according to their lawyers and investigating judge, still some Thai nationalists did not accept the truth since they have misguided political tendencies. These deficiencies, stroked by foolish ultra nationalism prompted them to hold mass rallies to pressure the government to secure the release of the detainees. My words for the Thai ultra nationalists is that the political move by deliberately mixing public opinion with politics, including petitions earlier this month to the United Nations office representative in Bangkok, will not help you to solve this problem given the fact that the case is purely related to Cambodia’s immigration and penal law, which is nothing to do with the international issue.

We are sure the Thais and others would have heard what Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said “no one can intervene in the judicial system, neither the government nor foreigners, nor Cambodians”. So it is best for the misguided Thais to refrain from internationalizing the issue and leave it to Cambodia’s court to finish with the judiciary procedures and allow the law to take its due course.

It would also be worthwhile to recall that PM Hun Sen said that the Thai suspects could not expect early release if they are found guilty. However, a golden opportunity for the convicts is that Cambodia’s government could consider whether they should be pardoned or not after the convicts will have serve two thirds of their sentences. So leave the court to fully exercise its legal power, which must be respected and no one should attempt to intervene in the judicial system. Cambodian court procedures are not different from those of the Thai courts and that no one should put pressure on the court and I personally am of the view that the case of the seven Thai suspects does not affect the bilateral relations of our country. Even the Thai Prime Minister has declared that he would not comment much since it is currently under consideration of Cambodia’s judicial system.

I am however surprised by the comment of the Thai New Politics Party secretary-general who was quoted in The Bangkok Post on Jan 5 that the different set of facts over the seven Thais could benefit Cambodia. This is ridiculous to me because the Thais themselves had created the current problems and instead of showing remorse, were trying to take the upper hand on Cambodia, meaning that the Thais had intentionally intruded into Cambodia and even had the audacity to inform the Cambodian border officials ahead.

I am convinced that the case will not reignite the diplomatic row between the two ASEAN neighbors and I hope our two countries will maintain good bilateral relations for peaceful co-existence while and protecting each other’s rights and sovereignty. As Abhisit said that it is the government’s duty to do everything possible to bring the seven Thais back to Thailand without any effect on the country’s sovereignty. Now you can see that even the Thai PM assured his people that they would be O.K, so maybe the Yellow Shirt activists do not have to worry much by organizing or holding rallies from time to time as this is a clear waste of time and a weak attempt to pressurize Cambodia’s courts.

At the same time these Thai Yellow Shirt activists and their allies should stop their rallies as such acts will instigate social unrest which would not bring any benefit to your country. If I were the Yellow Shirt, I would rather focus on my daily business and wait and see how the Cambodian court will rule at the end of the day. You should not worry about your people who are being detained in Cambodia because they are well treated like Cambodian detainees as you have seen that relatives and friends of the detainees and Thai veteran politicians have been allowed to visit them in the detention centre while the court continues investigating the case. Their rights are fully respected by Cambodia. The court is merely doing its job and they would receive a fair trial. Last but not least only the accused can tell why they were there. Either they intentionally intruded into the area or were told to do so—given the fact that Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit was aware that the Democrat law maker Panich had gone to the border area of Prachin Buri. But what made Panich lead the team to Sa Kaeo province instead. This is a question which only the Thais can answer. Even Panic himself told Abhist’s secretary over cell phone that “it is difficult for the (Thai) government to help when they were arrested if he and six others were in Cambodia”.

So, Panich, who was formerly an assistant to the foreign minister, is well aware about the border issue given his past work which dealt with the disputed border with Cambodia. He was telling the whole world that he had crossed Cambodia’s border intentionally. More than that he has reportedly entered Cambodia’s territory before in the past as to what Cambodia’s Foreign Minsister Hor Namhong elucidated by saying said that Veera had illegally crossed into the same area twice before in July and September last year, but did not penetrated as deeply into Cambodian territory until his group was arrested in late December. So what one can ask what is his real agenda behind his illegal and unlawful entry into Cambodia?

By Ek Madra (AKP contributor)