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Typhoon Mirinae likely to worsen Cambodia's flood problems: Oxfam

Saturday, October 31, 2009

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) -- International aid agency Oxfam has cautioned that a new wave of rain from Typhoon Mirinae is expected to reach Cambodia on Nov. 2.

In a statement received Saturday, Oxfam said situations in communities already affected by Typhoon Ketsana and prolonged annual floods in central and northern Cambodia are likely to worsen with the effects of the new typhoon, putting already affected people further at risk.

"Typhoon Mirinae is currently on track to hit the northern Philippines island of Luzon . Although Cambodia may not be hit with the full strength of the typhoon, the country remains vulnerable due to its limited resources for preparation and response, and while the country is just beginning to recover from recent flooding," the statement said.

"Typhoon Mirinae could set back on-going emergency work and planned recovery and rehabilitation efforts in Cambodia ," said Francis Perez, Country Lead of Oxfam in Cambodia .

"The effects of the new typhoon could increase hazards in still flooded areas and cause further damage to crops and livelihoods. It may also displace communities or prolong the return of those already displaced by Typhoon Ketsana," he added.

Fearing a new threat of another typhoon, Oxfam is alerting humanitarian agencies and government authorities to help communities living in areas susceptible to flooding to be prepared by stocking on clean water and food and securing important documents.

The damage from Typhoon Ketsana runs to around 40 million U.S. dollars in Cambodia, according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance. The storm, which killed at least 30 people, affected about 6,000 families and destroyed thousands of hectares of rice fields, and local infrastructure such as irrigation systems, roads, schools and houses.

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Thaksin not to reside in Cambodia: Thai opposition leader

BANGKOK, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) -- Ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra refused to permanently reside in Cambodia as hedid not want to create problem to Thailand, opposition Puea Thai Party Chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyuth said Saturday.

"I asked him through people close him why he did not stay in Cambodia as it is near home and family, Thaksin said that he did not want to create problem," the INN news agency quoted Chavalit, deputy prime minister in Thaksin's administration as saying.

It was a test of Thaksin's thought, he said.

Thaksin was ousted by a military coup in September 2006 and has been in exile since then. In February 2008, Thaksin returned to Thailand to face corruption charges but later went to exile again and was convicted in absentia.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told reporters during the recent 15th ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Summit at Thailand's central beach resort of Hua Hin that Cambodiawould not hand over Thaksin to Thailand if Thailand sought his extradition.

Hun Sen also said that he could appoint Thaksin as his economic advisor.

The opposition party chairman said that he is planning to visit neighboring country of Malaysia in mid-November and visit Myanmar after that.

"I have known Gen Than Shwe (Myanmar top leader) for quite a long time and he can help improve relations between Thailand and Myanmar," he said.

Over the criticism that he was trying to discredit the government and to help Thaksin, Chavalit said if someone wants to do a big thing, he must be able to stand for such a negative criticism.

Also on Saturday, Thailand's Attorney-General Julasingh Wasantsingh said that Cambodia reserves the rights to refuse to extradite Thaksin if he stays in the neighboring country, but substantial grounds must be provided.

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New rail plans worry Cambodians [-More forced evictions are coming]

In some parts of rural Cambodia, public transport is virtually non-existent, so for years villagers have had their own innovative way of getting around - by what is known as a Bamboo Train, or locally, as a lorry.


Villagers rely on them to go to work, to the market, to travel to the hospital, and back home.

Now the government wants to introduce a modern rail system, but as Al Jazeera's Steve Chao reports from Pursat in Cambodia, the locals wonder whether the new trains will be as reliable as what they are used to.

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Cambodian's Khmer Rouge trials hits another hurdle

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Extraordinary Chamber of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) during a hearing on June 30, 2009. Two judges on the tribunal have been accused of taking instruction from their respective governments. [AFP]

The beleaguered Khmer Rouge trials in Cambodia have hit another obstacle.

Two pre-trial judges, including Australian Rowan Downing QC, have been accused of taking instruction from their respective governments in a motion filed last week.

The Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia were created to try the leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime, which is accused of killing more than two million people in the 1970s.

The Khmer Rouge tribunal has endured considerable controversy in its four years of existence and now many people believe its become entrenched in its own politics.

The lawyers of accused war criminal, Ieng Sari, have filed a motion requesting that two pre trial judges, including Mr Downing, be removed from the court due to a public perception of bias.

Radio Australia has obtained a copy of the motion that seizes on comments recently made by the Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen.

Mr Sen alleged the two judges have been acting on the orders of their respective foreign governments.

'Fair trial'

Michael Karnavas is one of the co-defence lawyers who filed the motion.

"What we're saying is we're caught in the middle of all of this, we're entitled to a fair trial," he said.

"The average person in Cambodia believes their Prime Minister, the United Nations hasn't stepped up to the plate, to either defend these judges or to show that they've taken any action to look into these allegations."

"The judges haven't spoken up, I suspect because of their position, but we want this matter cleared."

The two pre-trial judges, Mr Downing and Dutch national Katinka Lahuis are unable to comment on either Hun Sen's comments or the motion being filed against them.

Appropriate behaviour

But a spokeswoman for the court, Yuko Maeda, says the court believes all their court officials are behaving appropriately.

"We believe all the judicial officials who work at the ECCC are performing accordingly, independently from any of the executive bodies."

"This is the international standard, ECCC is following the international standard. We believe that none of the judicial officials who are working at the ECCC are influenced by any executive body."

Heather Ryan, a court monitor with the Open Society Justice Initiative, says she's seen no evidence to confirm the allegations, but says they should be publicly addressed to protect the credibility of the court.

"Many of the international players and the judges are in my view, unfortunately reluctant to speak publicly when statements like this that impact the credibility of the court are made," she said.

"I think it's part of that sort of general reluctance of commentators and officials of the courts to speak about what's going on in the court publicly. There's kind of a conspiracy of silence."

Bribery claims

An early report into the court's activities prepared for the US Agency for International Development concluded corruption was "pandemic" within the administration of local officials with bribery a widely accepted practice.

A subsequent report produced by the court, which was initially suppressed, revealed similar findings.

But there is no suggestion that these allegations relate to the judges of the court.

Lawyer Michael Karnavas dismisses any suggestion that his motion is designed further erode the tribunal's reputation, arguing it upholds expectations of transparency and due diligence.

"I haven't made these allegations, somebody else has. I'm not the one getting kick backs from the national staff. I'm not the one who is hiding the UN report, others are doing that," he said.

"So you can't blame the defence for trying to shed light and trying to make this process as transparent as possible."

Mounting scepticism

Ms Ryan, of the Open Society Justice Initiatives, says the court should be concerned about mounting public scepticism over its transparency and capacity to deliver swift and effective justice.

"The court has an obligation now, if it's to preserve its obligation to the people of Cambodia to go out of its way and take additional steps to be transparent, to scrupulously deal with any allegations of misconduct or wrong doing and to ensure that people can see that they actually are serving the interests of justice."

"Right now when everything is done behind closed doors people don't see that and so when statements like the one that is alleged by Ieng Sari's lawyers are made, it feeds on a kind of inherent suspicion."

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Cambodia can deny Thaksin extradition bid by Thailand: Attorney-General


BANGKOK, Oct 30 (TNA) - Cambodia reserves the right to deny a request by Thailand to extradite ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra if he stays in the neighbouring country, but substantial grounds must be provided for the denial, according to the Attorney-General Julasingh Wasantsingh.

Mr Julasingh said he did not focus on anybody in particular, but would touch only on the principle that even though Thailand and Cambodia had signed an extradition treaty, in practice the country which was asked for the extradition has the full right to deny the request.

However, that country must justify its denial in line with international practice.

As for Mr Thaksin’s case, the Office of the Attorney-General has not been informed about his whereabouts so the office could not make the request.

If the police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirm that Mr Thaksin is in Cambodia, Thai officials would seek extradition, but it depends on Phnom Penh's decision.

He added that Thailand had formerly denied such requests from some countries, but the kingdom was able to provide strong grounds to clarify its decisions in the past.

Mr Hun Sen told reporters during attending the 15th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Thailand that Mr Thaksin could remain in Cambodia as his guest and could be his economic advisor, saying he was not interfering in Thailand's internal affairs, but that Cambodia has the right to exercise its sovereignty and make such a decision.

Ousted in a bloodless coup in September 2006, convicted and sentenced to a two-year jail term for malfeasance in the controversial Bangkok Ratchadapisek land purchase, Mr Thaksin now living in self-exile abroad and is reportedly a close friend of Mr Hun Sen.

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Thailand and Cambodia Argue About Thaksin & the Coup

Thai and Cambodian politicians have been fleeing to each other's country for the past 50 years, seeking sanctuary from coups, arrest warrants, and other threats.

In 1957, when Thai dictator Field Marshall Sarit Thanarat unleashed a military coup against Prime Minister Phibun Songkram, the toppled leader fled Thailand for Cambodia in his Ford Thunderbird car.

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Thailand and Cambodia have descended into a loud political feud about Bangkok's 2006 coup, and Thailand's current threat to demand the extradition of its fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The rift between the two Buddhist-majority nations in the heart of Southeast Asia was expected to worsen if Mr. Thaksin accepts Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's surprise offer of a temporary house.

"There is an extradition process," warned Thailand's powerful Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban on Tuesday (October 27).

"The turmoil following Cambodian leader Hun Sen's remarks, about ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra being welcome in his country, has thrown the government into a spin," the Bangkok Post newspaper, which opposes Mr. Thaksin, reported on Tuesday (October 27).

Ratcheting up his rhetoric, Mr. Hun Sen compared Mr. Thaksin to Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has languished under house arrest in Rangoon for 14 years.

"Many people are talking about Mrs. Suu Kyi of Burma. Why can't I talk about the victim, Thaksin?" Mr. Hun Sen said on October 23.

"That cannot be regarded as interference by Cambodia into Thai internal affairs. Without the coup d'etat in 2006, such a thing would not have happened," Hun Sen said.

Soft-spoken Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva lashed out Mr. Hun Sen's remarks.

"There are few people in the world who believe Thaksin is similar to that of Mr. Suu Kyi," Mr. Abhisit said later that day.

"I hope Prime Minister Hun Sen will receive the right information and change his mind on the matter."

Cambodia's government spokesman Phay Siphan said on October 23: "Cambodia has a right to offer Thaksin to visit Cambodia, and we have no obligation to send him back to Thailand."

If "former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra wishes to travel to Cambodia anytime...the Cambodian prime minister is ready to prepare a residence for [his] stay in Cambodia," reported Cambodia's government-run TVK television on October 22, according to Agence-France Presse.

Mr. Thaksin has been an international fugitive, based mostly in Dubai, dodging a two-year prison sentence for a conflict of interest.

That conviction involved a Bangkok real estate deal -- for his now divorced wife -- which was arranged when he was prime minister.

Mr. Thaksin became prime minister in 2001 when most voters elected the billionaire telecommunications tycoon, hoping he would boost the economy and modernize Thailand.

Mr. Thaksin was removed in September 2006 by Thailand's U.S.-trained military in a bloodless coup when they used tanks, armored personnel carriers, Humvees and other weapons to seize power.

He has unsuccessfully tried to return to power with the help of allied politicians, and get back his two billion U.S. dollars worth of assets which the coup leaders froze.

International human rights groups, however, want Mr. Thaksin investigated for his role in the alleged extrajudicial murder of more than 2,000 people during his government's "war on drugs."

Mr. Thaksin remains politically active in self-exile.

He helps lead a mass movement of so-called "Red Shirts" who claim to represent Thailand's majority lower classes, especially in the countryside.

Together they demand an immediate election, expecting Mr. Thaksin's allies to win.

They are opposed by the "Yellow Shirts" who claim to support Thailand's urban middle class and constitutional monarchy.

Led by Sondhi Limthongkul, the Yellow Shirts blockaded Bangkok's international and domestic airports in November 2008 for eight days, stranding more than 300,000 people worldwide.

Their blockade helped weaken a government allied to Mr. Thaksin, and paved the way for Parliament to elect Mr. Abhisit.

Mr. Abhisit's fragile coalition government enjoys the military's support, and much of his personal security is handled by the military.

Thailand's wealthy elite have mostly thrown their weight behind Mr. Abhisit as well, and appear nervous about Mr. Thaksin and the Red Shirts plotting to destabilize Bangkok.

Cambodia's prime minister has thrown a wild card into this dangerous mix, apparently hoping to attract big investments by Mr. Thaksin and weaken Bangkok's strategy over a smoldering border dispute, according to some analysts.

"It is true that I would invite former Prime Minister Thaksin to visit Cambodia anytime, and to be my economic advisor," Mr. Hun Sen said on October 22.

Thailand and Cambodia are former war-time enemies -- and current investment partners -- so the stakes are high for all sides to quell their public sniping.

Occasional killings on both sides have continued in and around the ancient stone ruins of Preah Vihear, a Hindu temple on the Thai-Cambodian border.

That dispute dates back to the 1950s, and continued even after the International Court in the Hague, Netherlands, confirmed Cambodia's ownership in 1962.

The conflict flared again after the ruins were declared a World Heritage Site in July 2008 by the World Heritage Committee, based on Cambodia's proposal to cash in on its tourism potential.

Thailand and Cambodia have suffered much worse relations in the past.

After Richard Nixon became president of the United States in 1969, he used Thailand as one of several military staging areas for heavy aerial bombing raids against communists in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, until America's wars ended in 1975 -- one year after Nixon's presidency -- with the U.S. defeated in all three countries.

Washington and Bangkok later indirectly backed Cambodia's communist Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, when his jungle-based guerrillas were in a loose alliance with other Cambodian rebels fighting against Vietnam's 1979-1989 occupation of Cambodia.

Thai and Cambodian politicians have been fleeing to each other's country for the past 50 years, seeking sanctuary from coups, arrest warrants, and other threats.

In 1957, when Thai dictator Field Marshall Sarit Thanarat unleashed a military coup against Prime Minister Phibun Songkram, the toppled leader fled Thailand for Cambodia in his Ford Thunderbird car.
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Richard S Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist who has reported news from Asia since 1978. He is co-author of "Hello My Big Big Honey!", a non-fiction book of investigative journalism.

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Jungle woman' hospitalised

Rochom P'ngieng

CAMBODIA'S "jungle woman", whose case gripped the country after she apparently spent 18 years living in a forest, has been hospitalised after refusing food, her father and a doctor said today.

Rochom P'ngieng, now 28, went missing as a little girl in 1989 while herding water buffalo in Ratanakkiri province around 600km northeast of the capital Phnom Penh.

The woman was brought from the jungle, naked and dirty, in early 2007 after being caught trying to steal food from a farmer.

She was hunched over like a monkey, scavenging the ground for pieces of dried rice in the forest.

She could not utter a word of any intelligible language, instead making what Sal Lou, the man who says he is her father, calls "animal noises".

Cambodians described her as "jungle woman" and "half-animal girl".

Sal Lou said Rochom P'ngieng was admitted to the provincial hospital on Monday and had not adjusted to village life.

"She has refused to eat rice for about one month. She is skinny now.... She still cannot speak. She acts totally like a monkey. Last night, she took off her clothes, and went to hide in the bathroom," Sal Lou said.

"Her condition looks worse than the time we brought her from the jungle. She always wants to take off her clothes and crawl back to the jungle," he added.

Doctor Hing Phan Sokunthea, director of Ratanakkiri provincial hospital, said the woman was "in a state of nerves".

"Doctors have injected her with medicine twice a day to treat nervous illness but she still cannot control herself," he said.

Sal Lou said his family found it difficult to house the woman and he would appeal to charities to take over her care.

The jungles of Ratanakkiri - some of the most isolated and wild in Cambodia - are known to have held hidden groups of hill tribes in the recent past.

In November 2004, 34 people from four hill tribe families emerged from the dense forest where they had fled in 1979 after the fall of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, which they supported.

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Abhisit's tit-for-tat against his Cambodian counterpart was uncalled for, as Thailand was the host of the meeting

Despite gushing official statements, the Abhisit government's performance at the recent Asean Summit was disappointing.


The so-called achievements in Hua Hin and Cha-am were too little compared with the huge budget spent in organising the three-day event.

The 15th summit got off on an inauspicious start, as four heads of state and government failed to show up at the official opening.

The Thai-Cambodian spat over deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra did not contribute in any way to the grouping's quest for unity, friendship and cooperation.

Prime Minister Abhisit's tit-for-tat against his Cambodian counterpart was uncalled for, as Thailand was the host of the meeting. He should have reserved his criticism for some other occasion.

Many issues have been left unsolved after the meeting, including the lifting of import tax among the 10 member countries, the Thai-Philippine rice tariff, free investment regulations, and the fate of Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi.

Asean's dream of becoming a unified community remains just that - a distant dream. If Thailand and Cambodia are still at each other's throats, how can the group become unified?

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H1N1 Claims Fourth Cambodian

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A 51-year-old woman succumbed to the H1N1 virus, officials said Thursday, bringing the death toll to four, with the total amount of confirmed cases in the country at 239.

The death comes as Phnom Penh is preparing for the annual Water Festival, which draws millions of people to crowd the capital’s waterfront for three days.

Health officials worry the close proximity of revelers will lead to a rapid expansion of the disease. Following the festival last year, Cambodia reported a new case of bird flu.

The latest victim of the H1N1 virus, sometimes called swine flu, was a Phnom Penh resident who had suffered from liver disease and had been ill for “many years,” Sok Touch, director of the Ministry of Health’s communicable disease department, said.

Symptoms of the pandemic virus are much the same as seasonal influenza, including a high fever, coughing, sore throat, headache, muscle aches and lethargy, health experts say. It can be transmitted at least one day before symptoms appear, after which it is contagious for at least a week.

Health Minister Mam Bunheng encouraged people to cover their mouths and noses with tissue when coughing or sneezing and to deposit the tissue in a bin. Hand-washing with soap and water can also contain the spread of the disease, he said.

The World Health Organization estimates more than 340,000 cases of the disease worldwide have led to 4,100 deaths as of late September.

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Kathen Worshippers Barred from Remote Pagoda [... due to land concession for a rubber company]

Police in Kampong Thom province have blocked villagers from participating in a Buddhist ceremony at a remote pagoda on disputed land for the past two days, officials said Thursday.

Celebrants of the Kathen ceremony, in which the faithful bring offerings to sequestered monks, were stopped 15 kilometers outside the pagoda, in Santhouk district, which the provincial governor called “illegitimate.”

“We blocked them, but it does not mean we’re preventing people from holding the ceremony,” the governor, Chhun Choan, said. “That place is part of a land concession given to a company for the investment of rubber.”

Villagers from the provinces of Kandal and Kampong Cham had meant to travel to the Meakea Prachea Hema Voan pagoda, with gifts for monks who must remain on the premises for three months. The Katen ceremony ends Nov. 2.

“Yesterday, they blocked one convoy, and today another,” said Leng Chea, a monk’s assistant. “If they claim that the pagoda is illegal, they must wait until the ceremony is finished.”

The pagoda, located 100 kilometers from Kampong Thom town, was built by an association assisting debilitated soldiers. It is little more than a small house where two monks live.

Khun Sok Kea, head of the association, said he had acquired the land legally in 2004.

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Thais To Explain Thaksin Charges to Hun Sen A demonstrator holds a banner with pictures of exiled former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra with

A demonstrator holds a banner with pictures of exiled former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen during a rally outside the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok on October 27. (Photo: Reuters)

The Thai government said this week it will send an official document to Prime Minister Hun Sen regarding ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, following a war of words between Phnom Penh and Bangkok over Cambodia’s right to refuse extradition.

Thaksin, who lives in exile, but not in Cambodia, faces a prison term on corruption charges if he returns to Thailand.

Hun Sen angered the current Thai government earlier this month by hosting a Thaksin supporter of the opposition party, then declaring Thaksin welcome in Cambodia, despite an extradition treaty with Thailand.

Thailand’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said Tuesday it will outline the facts of Thaksin’s case for Hun Sen, who it said may have obtained incorrect information.

“We will receive the documents relating to Thaksin to read if the Bangkok government sends the documents to us,” government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said. “It is no problem. We will have our legal experts examine the documents.”

Thaksin was ousted from power in a bloodless coup in 2006, but he still enjoys wide support among Thais, and Hun Sen has called Thaksin a political victim and thereby outside extradition requirements.

Koy Kong, a spokesman for Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the ministry had not yet received documentation from Bangkok, but relations otherwise continued as normal.

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Vietnam, Cambodia discuss security, extradition pacts

Vietnam and Cambodia on Thursday discussed an agreement to strengthen public security ties as well as an extradition treaty to deal with crimes along their border areas.

Police said border crimes have become more complex and serious than previous years. Since the beginning of last year, more than 1,890 smuggling cases were detected involving goods worth US$6.2 million.

Other crimes, including drugs, arms and human trafficking, have also thrived along the Vietnam-Cambodia border, which stretches for nearly 1,200 kilometers.

Vietnam has 10 provinces bordering Cambodia with a total population of 12.65 million.

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Court upholds Mu Sochua conviction

Parliamentarian Mu Sochua appeared in court on Wednesday as the judges rejected her appeal of a defamation conviction. (Photo by: Sovan Philong)

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Meas Sokchea and Sebastian Strangio
The Phnom Penh Post

Since [Mu Sochua] is among the most proactive women activists and lawmakers in Cambodia, I am disappointed she wasn’t given more respect” - Thida Keus, executive director of rights group Silaka and secretary general of the Committee to Promote Women in Politics
THE Court of Appeal has upheld the defamation conviction of opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua, an outcome the Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian described as “politically motivated”.

In a hearing on Wednesday, Judge Seng Sivutha affirmed the ruling handed down by the Municipal Court in August, which found Mu Sochua guilty of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen and ordered her to pay a total of 16.5 million riels (US$3,963) in fines and compensation.

During the hearing, Mu Sochua was defiant, appearing in court without a defence attorney and refusing to answer any questions because of her lack of counsel, she said.

“I don’t want other lawyers to become victims like Kong Sam Onn,” she said, referring to her former defence lawyer, who resigned and defected to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party in July after he was also sued for defamation by the premier.

After the hearing, she rejected the court’s decision and pledged to take her appeal to the Supreme Court.

“I’m not going to pay the fine – I’ve said that before clearly,” she said. “I’m just giving the courts of Cambodia another chance to prove that they can do their job.”

In a statement released after the hearing, the SRP decried the outcome as a “mockery of justice” that merely mimicked the verdict handed down in August. “The Appeal Court, ignoring principles of fair trial, blindly affirmed the decision of the Municipal Court: The accused was denied her rights to be represented by a lawyer of her choice, and to be judged by an independent and impartial tribunal,” the party stated.

The prime minister sued Mu Sochua for defamation in April after she filed her own complaint, claiming he referred to her in a speech as a cheung klang – a Khmer term meaning “strong leg” but considered derogatory when used in relation to women. Her own lawsuit against Hun Sen was dismissed by the Appeal Court on October 14.

Hun Sen’s lawyer, Ky Tech, said during the hearing that Mu Sochua’s comments about her own lawyer were an attempt to politicise the issue, and that the wording of Mu Sochua’s lawsuit – in which she requested 500 riels in symbolic compensation – was clear evidence that she aimed to attack and insult the prime minister.

“She held a press conference to defame Samdech Hun Sen and said she would sue [him]. She demanded 500 riels, but this amount could not wash away the stain on her reputation if she had really been defamed by Hun Sen,” Ky Tech said.

“There was only one aim – to defame Samdech Hun Sen.”

Rights activists, however, said the verdict was a clear case of political manipulation.

“Poor people can’t make complaints against high-ranking people. This is the custom of Cambodia,” said Chan Soveth, a senior monitor at local rights group Adhoc.

The outcome of the appeal, he said, was a foregone conclusion from the moment the original verdict was delivered.

“The Phnom Penh court had made its decision already, [a] decision made not by the court but by high-ranking people. The Appeal Court could not make a new ruling,” he said.

Thida Keus, executive director of rights group Silaka and secretary general of the Committee to Promote Women in Politics, said she was disappointed the court did not conduct its own investigations into the case, adding that the verdict could discourage women from getting involved in politics.

“Since [Mu Sochua] is among the most proactive women activists and lawmakers in Cambodia, I am disappointed she wasn’t given more respect,” she said.

“I feel very sad that this has happened – not just for women, but also for the public and the international community who know the judicial system in Cambodia is not free.”

The ruling came a week after the Governing Council of the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union adopted a resolution expressing “deep concern” at the sentencing of Mu Sochua for making statements that “clearly fall within the limits of her freedom of expression”.

The resolution, adopted in Geneva on October 21, also decried the removal of Mu Sochua’s parliamentary immunity in June to pave the way for the defamation case, and said she “did not enjoy her right to legal counsel of her choice” following Kong Sam Onn’s resignation in July.

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SRP MP Ho Vann's visit to Pennsylvania, USA

(All Photos: SRP Pennsylvania)


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Teacher pay a concern: UK union

MEMBERS of a British teachers union expressed dismay at the low salaries of Cambodian teachers during a meeting Tuesday that was part of weeklong conference with the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA) set to conclude Friday, participants said.

The conference has brought together members of the Association
of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and 30 teachers from Phnom Penh and Kandal province.

Phuong Viphou, project coordinator at the British embassy and the organiser of the visit, said she was shocked at the discrepancy between teacher pay in the UK and in Cambodia.

“I hope that teachers’ situation will change in the future in terms of salary, and that the teaching profession will be more respected and recognised, too,” she said Tuesday.

CITA President Rong Chhun said teachers working in the UK earn about US$200 per day, whereas their Cambodian counterparts receive about $2 a day.

Phuong Viphou also said that the visiting ATL representatives might be able to push the government to improve teacher pay during their visit to Cambodia.

Asked to comment Wednesday, the British embassy said in a statement: “The UK is not involved in the education reforms of Cambodia. However, we share the government’s aspirations to raise public-sector pay particularly for teachers and health workers. Obviously, this has to be subject to affordability and aligned with public-sector reforms.”

Ngo Hongly, secretary general of the Council for Administrative Reforms at the Council of Ministers, said the government’s policy was to increase teacher pay each year, adding that average salaries had risen from $19.50 in 2001 to $81.50 this year.

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Beware of ASEAN rights diplomacy

Hong Kong, China — Last Friday, 10 civil society representatives learned the hard way what a new Asian regional human rights initiative is really all about.

The 10 had expected to meet leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, one representing each country in the grouping, for a chat prior to the launch of the Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights.

But the night before, officials from the Foreign Ministry of Thailand – where the event was being held – said that only five would be allowed through the door. When the five arrived at the venue, officials told them that they could not open their mouths.

Welcome to human rights dialogue, ASEAN style.

In a statement, the spurned activists said that the move was “a rejection of both civil society and the democratic process” that “sabotages the credibility” of the new commission. Media reports cited other groups as “bashing” and “deriding” the body.

All this seems to be much ado about nothing.

It was obvious from the start that the purpose of the new ASEAN body is not to protect human rights. Its purpose is the exact opposite.

ASEAN has created the Intergovernmental Commission so that member governments and their own ineffectual rights institutions can push complaints of abuses outside their borders. There they can be professionally watered down and run through various “channels” and “mechanisms” until the original point is forgotten and frustrated complainants give up.

Although the commission is not intended to promote rights, it is aiming to promote members’ campaigns for seats on prestigious international bodies, like the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Thailand has already announced that it will bid for the peak U.N. rights body next year. Its current ambassador to the council was government spokesman when former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s administration was enabling the murder of thousands of alleged drug dealers in 2003.

In his new improved role as ASEAN human rights defender, the ambassador has been working on the intergovernmental body, perhaps with the expectancy of a better seat at the big hall in Geneva.

That these governments are working hard on their human rights diplomacy for reasons other than human rights is unsurprising. That civil society groups have been suckered into the diplomacy agenda is unfortunate.

Not only has it proven to be a complete waste of time and money, but also it is damaging to the defense of human rights in Asia.

Human rights diplomacy causes groups to lose touch with the real work of human rights advocacy. Diplomacy obliges negotiation and compromise. It is the stuff of closed doors and secret handshakes. By contrast, advocacy means standing firm on principles. It is necessarily public and open.

Rights diplomats fear to speak out because they might step on officials’ toes or risk their status with fellow diplomats. They sacrifice their ability to communicate on critically important issues on the streets in order to keep their cherished places at the table.

This is why, for instance, some groups have failed to speak out against the use of the lèse majesté law to silence and imprison people in Thailand, when in principle they ought to have not even hesitated.

Rights diplomats may flatter themselves into thinking that they can make progress through quiet negotiating, as if they were concluding a trade agreement or making an arms deal, but the fact is that this method is inimical to the real work of defending human rights.

This is because the single most important purpose of human rights advocacy is to break open silences and challenge taboos that allow abuses to continue. The work of human rights is to end the censorship of debate on problems that cause violations to persist.

Censorship can only be broken through advocacy. Human rights diplomacy, by contrast, not only reinforces censorship but also forces its participants to engage in self-censorship.

Persons who engage in self-censorship on the pretence of dialogue should expect little sympathy later when they find that they have been made victims of their own attempts at diplomacy, and then cry out that they have been unfairly treated.

But hopefully they will have learned an important lesson, that human rights diplomacy and human rights advocacy are incompatible. Anyone opting to engage in the former can only do so at the cost of giving up on the latter. And to give up on the latter ultimately means to give up on human rights.
--
(Awzar Thi is the pen name of a member of the Asian Human Rights Commission with over 15 years of experience as an advocate of human rights and the rule of law in Thailand and Burma. His Rule of Lords blog can be read at http://ratchasima.net)

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Suu Kyi counterpart gets 'offer' from Rangoon

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Disclaimer: The following e-mail was intercepted on its way from Rangoon to Thaksin Shinawatra. Though unsigned, it seems to have been written by someone in the top echelons of power. It could be a fake, but it sounds as sincere as Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and Hun Sen put together.

WE NEVER thought of doing this, but since our pal Hun Sen can give an international lecture on humanitarianism and political persecution, it makes us believe that we, too, should be in with a shout. Dear friend Thaksin Shinawatra, what has happened to you is horrible, and if you think Phnom Penh is too risky a place, please consider a warm exile in Rangoon.

Of course, we are totally aware of the irony. How can a foreign version of Aung San Suu Kyi seek refuge in a country where she is under house arrest and her political party is denied a role? We would like you to put that aside for a minute and hear us out.

This whole exile thing is benefiting both of us. Thanks to Hun Sen, the world - which has been shedding crocodile tears for its "Lady" Suu Kyi - is starting to know the truth. The sincerest tears we've soon belonged to his wife who cried over you. And the man himself was spot on when he said that if international babbling about our country is not considered nosy or inappropriate, why should his comments on your plight be?

We don't mind you comparing yourself to Suu Kyi. You were in need of something catchy, and we don't blame you. But most of all, your actions spoke louder than words. The Exim bank loan was the true reflection of our friendship. You can call us dogs for all we care.

This offer is being made out of concern for your well-being. No offence to Hun Sen, but Phnom Penh isn't the safest place in the world. How could you do your second favourite thing after fighting for democracy - shopping - when you wouldn't be able to tell innocent Cambodian pedestrians from Thai agents sent by your enemies?

And not all Cambodians will be friendly. Your telecom endeavour there, while it brought everlasting friendship with many, left several others with a bad taste in their mouth. Not to mention the silly rumours about you and a power play there in the past. Yes, any political victim can go to Dubai, but it takes a real man to go and live in Cambodia. What we are saying is, why take unnecessary chances?

We also want to take some heat off our good friend Hun Sen, who we know is sincere but was naive enough to wait exactly one year since the Ratchada land ruling to come out and decry the verdict. And he did that just hours before the Thai government was about to host the Asean Summit, too. Whereas Hun Sen can be wrongly accused of being political, we can't be.

So please consider our offer. We can build you a home near Aung San Suu Kyi's, and everyone will win. We will have repaid you the Exim loan favour, you will be near your real-life heroine, safe and sound, and she will enjoy the company of a great admirer. Cambodia will be spared the heavy political baggage your exile there could entail, while Thailand will be able to quit thinking about seeking extradition, and concentrate on things more plausible.

Last but not least, although accommodating you won't get the human-rights fanatics off our back, hopefully it will confuse the daylights out of them. It will also give the otherwise pretentious and ambiguous "constructive engagement" policy of Asean a solid platform. Anwar Ibrahim, if he faces new persecution, can now flee to Phnom Penh, while defanged Cambodian princes - if somehow they need sanctuary in the future - can go to Manila.

What an intriguing web that would be. You can be the catalyst for it. And don't worry about your phone-ins. Whatever Hun Sen has promised you, you will get from us - and more.

We are terribly sorry if the Hun Sen saga was just supposed to be a tactic to steal the media spotlight and you didn't really mean to come back to this region. If that was the plan, bravo. You have caused quite a stir, and this must rank in the top five of the world's much-ado-about-nothing diplomatic issues.

But if Hun Sen is dead serious and so are you, give our offer a little thought. At least think about the publicity you'll get. Of course, "Thaksin begins Cambodia exile" is a sexy headline, but nothing would beat "Aung San Suu Kyi counterpart given asylum in Rangoon".

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Our World: Cambodia's elite tip the scales of justice

Yet, as Human Rights Watch's Asia director, Brad Adams, put it, "No one has ever been accountable under the Cambodian armed forces for the human rights violations," and, "People who are criminals are senior officials in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces now."

I wrote in this space last week, on the 18th anniversary of the signing of the Paris Accords on Cambodia, about how the stipulations in the Accords and the articles in Cambodia's Constitution it established promised the country and its people high hopes for the future. After 18 years, both the Accords and the constitution have failed to deliver a "liberal democracy" and "respect for and observance of" human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the idea of an "independent judiciary" has become only a dream.

The international non-governmental organization Global Witness calls Cambodia's ruling elite a "kleptocratic elite" that robs public assets and natural resources to enrich themselves.

Some forty percent of the people in Cambodia live below the poverty line and many have been forcibly evicted from their homes and their land.

American Physicist Albert Einstein said, "Don't listen to their words; fix your attention on their deeds," and America's 34th President Dwight David Eisenhower said: "Remember that it is not by a tyrant's words, but only by his deeds that we can know him."

Here's an illustration of Cambodia's judiciary serving as Premier Hun Sen's tool to punish the opposition:

On Oct 14, Cambodia's Appeals Court upheld the Municipal Court which, on June 10, dismissed Cambodian lawmaker Mu Sochua's lawsuit against Premier Sen for defaming her in a nationally broadcast speech in Kampot province -- Sochua's constituency.

In the speech, Sen spoke of a Kampot woman "choeung khlang" (literally, "strong leg," -- a hustler) who, "in the [July 2008] national election campaign, went to hug someone, then accused someone of undoing her blouse's buttons."

As the press reported, in the July 2008 election campaign Sochua spotted an army officer using a state vehicle in the campaign for the ruling party, an act not authorized by law. In a confrontation, the officer twisted Sochua's arms and her blouse was torn open. Sochua subsequently sued the officer for assault.

Sochua considered Sen's speech an offense to her "dignity," sued the premier for 13 cents for defaming her. But, Sen responded, he didn't mention Sochua's name in his speech; he countersued Sochua for defaming him. A few days after the second exchange, Sen called on the Parliament to lift Sochua's immunity.

In April, the Asian Human Rights Commission's said in a statement, this "seemed to be deliberate and was meant to threaten and intimidate" Sochua. The AHRC referenced Sen's past techniques: "court action, lifting of immunity, imprisonment or exile, and then pardon if [political opponents] surrendered to him."

The Municipal Court ruled that Sen did not mention Sochua by name, hence, he never defamed Sochua; and found it was Sochua who defamed Sen by suing him; so on Aug. 4 it ordered her to pay $2,500 in fines to the state, and $2,000 in compensation to Sen. So, about whom did Sen speak in Kampot? Which other woman had her "blouse's buttons" undone? How did the speech touch on the spirit of the law?

Yet, the Appeals Court found the lower court's decision had followed the spirit of the law. Lacking independence, the court's decision was not surprising.

Sochua decided not to appeal to the Supreme Court as the outcome seems predetermined. She declared, "there is no balance of justice in Cambodia ... this law does not render justice for me ... it only rendered justice for the prime minister."

Edmund Burke's words should be recalled here: "All that is needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Two days after the Cambodian court's ruling in Sochua's case, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights issued a statement of concern on Oct. 16, over provisions in Cambodia's Penal Code that "jeopardize the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression," and called on the government to bring it "into line with international standards."

With Article 31 of Cambodia's constitution making international law "part of Cambodian law," the CCHR called for "the removal of the offense of defamation from the Penal Code to bring Cambodian domestic law into conformity with international principles." It charges, the Penal Code's "vague and ambiguous terminology ... creates a lack of clarity in the law, leaving it open to judicial interpretation and potential abuse," and it expressed alarm over "the inclusion of excessively harsh penalties throughout the Penal Code."

"It is of utmost importance for justice in Cambodia that our laws -- and particularly legislation as far reaching as the Penal Code -- conform with international law and the treaty commitments Cambodia has undertaken," declared the CCHR.

In the United States Congress, a group of lawmakers introduced a House Resolution on the "worsening problem of human trafficking in Cambodia," and condemn "the repression of opposition candidates by the ruling Cambodian People's Party." A non-binding resolution, it was nevertheless attacked by a CPP lawmaker as an "unthoughtful" piece by the "long-noses" who live "more than 1,000 kilometers away" -- "Our laws and those of the U.S. are different."

Still, donor countries, including the U.S., continue to make up half of Cambodia's national budget, and U.S. military aid continues to flow to the regime.

Yet, as Human Rights Watch's Asia director, Brad Adams, put it, "No one has ever been accountable under the Cambodian armed forces for the human rights violations," and, "People who are criminals are senior officials in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces now."

In the words of Bertrand Russell, "We have two kinds of morality side by side: one which we preach but do not practice and another which we practice but seldom preach."

A Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D., is retired from the University of Guam, where he taught political science for 13 years. Write him at peangmeth@yahoo.com

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Ties with Phnom Penh tangled in political morass October 29, 2009 By Kornchanok@nationgroup.com The Nation The Democrats have proven that relations

Ties with Phnom Penh tangled in political morass

The Democrats have proven that relations between Thailand and Cambodia depend very much on local politics.

Apart from the ruling party's link to fugitive ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra, the Democrat's different roles - as the opposition last year and as the government now - is affecting its reactions to the problem.

Last June, the Democrats used Preah Vihear issue as a reason to impeach then-foreign minister Noppadon Pattama during the censure debate.

PM Abhisit Vejjajiva, then the opposition leader, attacked Noppadon for having signed a communiqué with Cambodia over a map of the Preah Vihear compound, which was used by Phnom Penh to register the temple as a World Heritage Site. Samak Sundaravej's Cabinet then endorsed the agreement.
October 29, 2009
By Kornchanok@nationgroup.com
The Nation

The Democrats have proven that relations between Thailand and Cambodia depend very much on local politics.

Apart from the ruling party's link to fugitive ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra, the Democrat's different roles - as the opposition last year and as the government now - is affecting its reactions to the problem.

Last June, the Democrats used Preah Vihear issue as a reason to impeach then-foreign minister Noppadon Pattama during the censure debate.

PM Abhisit Vejjajiva, then the opposition leader, attacked Noppadon for having signed a communiqué with Cambodia over a map of the Preah Vihear compound, which was used by Phnom Penh to register the temple as a World Heritage Site. Samak Sundaravej's Cabinet then endorsed the agreement.

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When will Thailand ever stop its charade claim on Preah Vihear?

Thai on new world heritage committee

At the next meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Brazil next July, Thailand would again raise the Preah Vihear issue for consideration, mainly to protect its sovereignty over the disputed area
The election of a Thai representative to the new Unesco World Heritage Committee would make it easier for Thailand to explain its position in the dispute with Cambodia over Preah Vihear temple, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Wednesday.

Mr Abhisit was commenting on the election of Somsuda Leyavanija, deputy permanent secretary for culture, to the World Heritage Committee. His term ends in 2013.

"I think this will give us more opportunities to explain the dispute," the prime minister said.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti agreed.

Mrs Somsuda would be able to express Thailand's opinions and intentions over the registration of world heritage sites and, more importantly, would have access to important information which could be used to solve the Thai-Cambodian border conflict through peaceful means. he said.

At the next meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Brazil next July, Thailand would again raise the Preah Vihear issue for consideration, mainly to protect its sovereignty over the disputed area, Mr Suwit said.

The ownership of a 4.6 square kilometre area surrounding the ancient Hindu temple is a long-standing point of dispute between Thailand and Cambodia.


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Cambodia, UN mark 64th anniversary of UN Day

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian government and the United Nations country team on Tuesday jointly marked the 64th anniversary of UN Day, focusing on reviewing common priorities, said a press released from UN Resident Coordinator in Cambodia on Wednesday.

The discussion with Prime Minister Hun Sen and 11 UN Representatives focused on the excellent working relationship between Cambodia and the UN.

"The United Nations brings around 100 million U.S. dollars of development assistance to Cambodia each year but our support stretches beyond the dollar value of this contribution. We have a long-standing history of promoting peace and human development in Cambodia and we are extremely proud to serve the Cambodian people" expressed UN Resident Coordinator to Cambodia, Douglas Broderick.

Topics raised during the meeting included climate change, the global economic crisis, drug awareness, disaster management and Cambodia's support to international peacekeeping.

Among the highest priorities for the UN Country Team is helping Cambodia to achieve its Millennium Development Goals including improving maternal health, the goal currently requiring the most attention.

"The United Nations believes that no Cambodian woman should die giving life. We are committed to assisting the government to scale-up the quantity and quality of midwives and to improve access to emergency obstetrics care and reproductive health services as part of our joint effort to advance maternal health" Broderick assured the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister shared UN concern that the Millennium Development Goals could be endangered by the combined impacts of the global economic crisis and climate change but was grateful to the UN system for its assistance in helping compile information on the goals' progress at sub-national level.

Regarding the global economic crisis and its impact on the local economy, both sides recognized the importance of coordinating closely to maintain focus on the most vulnerable groups.

"We have been pleased by Cambodia's active response to the global economic crisis especially the attention given to social protection and the progress made towards an integrated Social Safety Net strategy. The UN will work with the government to maintain efforts in this area of social protection to ensure that as the world moves out of this crisis, the poorest people are protected from current and future economic shocks"

In closing the meeting, the Prime Minister congratulated the UN on its 64th anniversary and vowed to continue the UN Day meeting tradition.

United Nations Day (October 24) marks the signing of the United Nations Charter in 1945. Cambodia joined the United Nations on 14 December 1955.

The United Nations Country Team in Cambodia consists of 23 agencies, fund and programmes operating in the country

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Appeal Court upheld lower court decision in Mu Sochua’s case … She will appeal to the Supreme Court


On 28 October, the Appeal court upheld the lower court verdict in the defamation lawsuit brought up by Hun Xen against SRP MP Mu Sochua. Mrs. Mu Sochua lost her case in the earlier verdict handed down by the Phnom Penh municipal court. Mrs. Mu Sochua told reporters, following the announcement of the Appeal Court verdict, that she will pursue her case to the Supreme Court and that she will not stop it here.

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Cambodian opposition MP loses defamation appeal

Cambodian opposition MP loses defamation appeal

A Cambodian court on Wednesday upheld the conviction of a prominent opposition lawmaker for defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen in a case that critics charged was part of a pattern of intimidation against his opponents.

Judge Seng Sivutha of the Appeals Court let stand the ruling of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court against Mu Sochua, a member of parliament from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party. He said her action had "incited to other Cambodian women to dislike" Hun Sen.

The original case against her was one of several recent legal actions taken by Hun Sen's government against its critics in the opposition and the press.

"The Court's decision confirms that there is no rule of law in Cambodia when a person dares to challenge the government," her party said in a statement.

When the case against her moved ahead in June, the New York-based group Human Rights Watch said Hun Sen had "a long history of trying to muzzle Cambodia's political opposition and undermine the independence of the legal profession."

The case against Mu Sochua was filed after she attempted to sue the prime minister for remarks he made about her, and he then countersued. In August, she was found guilty and ordered to pay a 8.5 million riel ($2,000) fine to the state and 8 million riel ($1,882) in compensation to Hun Sen.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court rejected her lawsuit in June, saying it was groundless, but moved ahead with the prime minister's countersuit.

Cambodia's Parliament, dominated by Hun Sen's ruling coalition, then stripped the immunity from prosecution of Mu Sochua and another opposition legislator who was being sued for defamation by Hun Sen and senior military officers, allowing the case to go ahead.

In June, the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia criticized the lawsuits against the lawmakers, saying they undermine the constitutional freedom of opinion and expression.

On Wednesday, Mu Sochua said that the legal proceedings were totally influenced by political manipulation, and that she would appeal to the Supreme Court.

"My trial is a political prosecution, not a real trial," she said.

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Suu Kyi counterpart gets 'offer' from Rangoon

Disclaimer: The following e-mail was intercepted on its way from Rangoon to Thaksin Shinawatra. Though unsigned, it seems to have been written by someone in the top echelons of power. It could be a fake, but it sounds as sincere as Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and Hun Sen put together.

WE NEVER thought of doing this, but since our pal Hun Sen can give an international lecture on humanitarianism and political persecution, it makes us believe that we, too, should be in with a shout. Dear friend Thaksin Shinawatra, what has happened to you is horrible, and if you think Phnom Penh is too risky a place, please consider a warm exile in Rangoon.

Of course, we are totally aware of the irony. How can a foreign version of Aung San Suu Kyi seek refuge in a country where she is under house arrest and her political party is denied a role? We would like you to put that aside for a minute and hear us out.

This whole exile thing is benefiting both of us. Thanks to Hun Sen, the world - which has been shedding crocodile tears for its "Lady" Suu Kyi - is starting to know the truth. The sincerest tears we've soon belonged to his wife who cried over you. And the man himself was spot on when he said that if international babbling about our country is not considered nosy or inappropriate, why should his comments on your plight be?

We don't mind you comparing yourself to Suu Kyi. You were in need of something catchy, and we don't blame you. But most of all, your actions spoke louder than words. The Exim bank loan was the true reflection of our friendship. You can call us dogs for all we care.

This offer is being made out of concern for your well-being. No offence to Hun Sen, but Phnom Penh isn't the safest place in the world. How could you do your second favourite thing after fighting for democracy - shopping - when you wouldn't be able to tell innocent Cambodian pedestrians from Thai agents sent by your enemies?

And not all Cambodians will be friendly. Your telecom endeavour there, while it brought everlasting friendship with many, left several others with a bad taste in their mouth. Not to mention the silly rumours about you and a power play there in the past. Yes, any political victim can go to Dubai, but it takes a real man to go and live in Cambodia. What we are saying is, why take unnecessary chances?

We also want to take some heat off our good friend Hun Sen, who we know is sincere but was naive enough to wait exactly one year since the Ratchada land ruling to come out and decry the verdict. And he did that just hours before the Thai government was about to host the Asean Summit, too. Whereas Hun Sen can be wrongly accused of being political, we can't be.

So please consider our offer. We can build you a home near Aung San Suu Kyi's, and everyone will win. We will have repaid you the Exim loan favour, you will be near your real-life heroine, safe and sound, and she will enjoy the company of a great admirer. Cambodia will be spared the heavy political baggage your exile there could entail, while Thailand will be able to quit thinking about seeking extradition, and concentrate on things more plausible.

Last but not least, although accommodating you won't get the human-rights fanatics off our back, hopefully it will confuse the daylights out of them. It will also give the otherwise pretentious and ambiguous "constructive engagement" policy of Asean a solid platform. Anwar Ibrahim, if he faces new persecution, can now flee to Phnom Penh, while defanged Cambodian princes - if somehow they need sanctuary in the future - can go to Manila.

What an intriguing web that would be. You can be the catalyst for it. And don't worry about your phone-ins. Whatever Hun Sen has promised you, you will get from us - and more.

We are terribly sorry if the Hun Sen saga was just supposed to be a tactic to steal the media spotlight and you didn't really mean to come back to this region. If that was the plan, bravo. You have caused quite a stir, and this must rank in the top five of the world's much-ado-about-nothing diplomatic issues.

But if Hun Sen is dead serious and so are you, give our offer a little thought. At least think about the publicity you'll get. Of course, "Thaksin begins Cambodia exile" is a sexy headline, but nothing would beat "Aung San Suu Kyi counterpart given asylum in Rangoon".

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Thai politics taints relationship with neighbours

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Thailand’s internal political strife has tainted and complicated bilateral relationship with its neighbouring countries, particularly Cambodia and Burma.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Monday that former Thai Prime Minister Chavalit Yongjaiyuth, who has close ties with ousted Prime Minister Taksin Shinawatra plans to visit neighbouring countries including Burma. It would be good if it is for the sake of the country, he added.

“Gen Chavalit is within his rights to visit these countries but should not cause problems to the countries, like when he visits Cambodia. I insisted that the anti-government groups should not put pressure on the Thai government by asking neighboring countries to help them,” according to a report in the Thai News Agency website.

Previously, Gen Chavalit visited Cambodia and met Hun Sen, The Cambodian premier, who asserted that Thaksin could remain in Cambodia as his guest and could be his economic advisor. Hun Sen added that he was not interfering in Thailand's internal affairs but that Cambodia has the right to exercise its sovereignty and take such a decision.

Former Thai premier Thaksin jumped bail and fled, evading his sentence to a two-year jail term for malfeasance in the controversial land purchase case in Bangkok. He spends most of his time in the United Arab Emirates after his status as a visitor was rejected by some countries including both the United Kingdom and Germany.

Hun Sen compared Thaksin to Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, asking rhetorically why he should not talk about his friend when everybody is allowed to talk about the detained Nobel Peace Laureate.

Abhisit responded saying that Hun Sen may have received incorrect information about Thaksin and should not allow himself to be used as a 'pawn'.

Kasit Piromya, the Thai Foreign Minister said Thailand and Cambodia are fellow ASEAN members and should cooperate and live together peacefully. Both countries should observe the same rules and the leaders should not do anything that could lead to misunderstanding.

On Saturday, at a bilateral meeting, the Burmese Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein, who attended the 15th ASEAN Summit in Thailand told the Thai premier that he would not allow any person to use Burma’s territory for activities against Thailand.

Abhisit thanked Burma for supporting Thailand as the ASEAN chair and said there would be more participation in development projects including the, Tavoy deep sea port in Burma and the East-West Corridor project which will benefit both countries.

About Burmese politics, Kasit said at a press conference on Saturday that he was optimistic about the ongoing developments inside the country, in which opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of the military government are engaging in dialogue.

He also welcomed the shift in tactics by the US government, which has called for engagement rather than relying purely on sanctions against the regime.

Assistance from ASEAN countries or an election observation team can be done collectively or individually. The final result will be worked out, Kasit said.

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Thai Deputy PM clarifies Thaksin's case to Cambodia's Hun Sen

BANGKOK, Oct 27 (TNA) - Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said on Tuesday that he had clearly explained the correct information regarding the case of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a September 2006 coup, to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Mr Suthep said he had met and discussed the matter with Mr Hun Sen, as assigned by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, and the Cambodian premier now has a better understanding about Mr Thaksin’s case.

Ousted in a bloodless coup three years ago, Mr Thaksin was sentenced to a two-year prison term for abusing his power when he was prime minister to help his ex-wife purchase prime land in Bangkok’s Ratchadapisek Road. He now lives mainly in the United Arab Emirates. His Thai passport was cancelled but he obtained passports given by some foreign countries.

Mr Suthep said he told the Cambodian premier that it was too late for Mr Thaksin to complain that he has been treated unfairly as the coup was over long before he and his supporters accepted the post-coup Constitution and fielded candidates to run in the (2007) general election which led to the pro-Thaksin party's victory, but then two prime ministers were forced to leave office after being found guilty of violating the constitution.

"Mr Hun Sen understands what I said," said Mr Suthep “However I didn't mention the extradition and his home offer to Mr Thaksin, I went there only to give him better and correct understanding on the situation in Thailand."

The deputy premier said he had told the Cambodian leader that the Thai people want to live in peace with their neighbours, respecting the sovereignty of each other and not meddling in its neighbour's internal affairs and solve any dispute through peaceful means.

Mr Hun Sen also pledged that the recent verbal spat would not lead to border tension or military skirmishes, according to the Thai deputy prime minister.

Meanwhile, the People's Assembly of Thailand led by political activists Chaiwat Sinsuwong and retired Admiral Bannawit Kengrian gathered in front of the Cambodian Embassy to Thailand in Bangkok, reading a statement condemning what they branded as "improper behaviour" of both the Cambodian leader and ex-Thai premier Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyuth, which they accused them of damaging relationships between the two neighbouring countries.

At the same time, a group of protesters who called themselves Dhammayatra submitted an open letter accusing the Cambodian prime minister of distorting the facts regarding the dispute focusing on the overlapping area adjacent to the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

Security has been tightened at the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok.

The Cambodian premier said again on his arrival at the ASEAN summit in the Thai resort towns of Cha-am and Hua Hin over the weekend that his government would allow Mr Thaksin, now in self-imposed exile, to take refuge in Cambodia and work as the his economic advisor and that Cambodia would not extradite him as asked by Thailand.

Mr Hun Sen's remark came as former Thai prime minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyuth, chairman of the opposition Puea Thai Party, visited Phnom Penh unofficially last week.

Thailand said it would seek Mr Thaksin’s extradition if it is known that he is staying in the neighbouring country.

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Thailand wins seat on World Heritage Committee

BANGKOK, Oct 27 (TNA) – A Thai government cultural official has been named to the United Nations committee which determines what heritage sites in all countries make it to the world register of historic sites overseen by the world body.

A Cambodian representative was elected to the committee as well, with one more point than received by Thailand.

Somsuda Leeyavanich, Thailand’s deputy permanent secretary for culture, was selected as a member of the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which this month replaced 12 retiring country members, according to Minister of Culture Teera Slukpetch.

Mr Teera said the selection was held at the 35th session of the UNESCO's General Conference in Paris.

Twenty-nine countries nominated representatives to be considered in selecting the 21-member World Heritage Committee, with a quota of two positions for Asia. Four member countries, Cambodia, Indonesia, Iran and Afghanistan, were competitors of Thailand.

As for the Asian representatives, Cambodia and Thailand won seats with 83 and 82 points respectively, he said.

Other countries selected were Switzerland with 104 points, South Africa (78), France (73), Ethiopia (69), Mexico (56), Estonia (55), Iraq (52), Mali (46), United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Russia.The UAE was selected without rivals and Russia was selected in the second round as no countries in East European group received more than half of the total votes.

Ms Somsuda, 57, will be a member of the World Heritage Committee for four years, from now until 2013. She is the second Thai national who won a seat, the first being Dr Adul Wichiencharoen who held a seat for two terms, 1989-1995 and 1997-2003. He chaired the committee in 1991.

The World Heritage Committee establishes sites to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is responsible for implementing the World Heritage Convention, defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from UNESCO members.

Mr Teera said it was expected that during her four-year term as a member of the World Heritage Committee, Ms Somsuda could promote the kingdom's role in the world arena and push Thai historic sites and natural attractions as the world heritage sites.

As Thailand and Cambodia also win seats in the World Heritage Committee, the two countries could coordinate and promote improved bilateral relations and understanding of the dispute over the Preah Vihear Temple.

The border disputes between Thailand and Cambodia flared up after UNESCO granted the historic temple World Heritage Site status in July 2008, as the question of sovereignty over the land having was never clearly resolved.

The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, in a decision that Thailand was reluctant to accept. The surrounding land remains in dispute.

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Thailand wins seat on World Heritage Committee

BANGKOK, Oct 27 (TNA) – A Thai government cultural official has been named to the United Nations committee which determines what heritage sites in all countries make it to the world register of historic sites overseen by the world body.

A Cambodian representative was elected to the committee as well, with one more point than received by Thailand.

Somsuda Leeyavanich, Thailand’s deputy permanent secretary for culture, was selected as a member of the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which this month replaced 12 retiring country members, according to Minister of Culture Teera Slukpetch.

Mr Teera said the selection was held at the 35th session of the UNESCO's General Conference in Paris.

Twenty-nine countries nominated representatives to be considered in selecting the 21-member World Heritage Committee, with a quota of two positions for Asia. Four member countries, Cambodia, Indonesia, Iran and Afghanistan, were competitors of Thailand.

As for the Asian representatives, Cambodia and Thailand won seats with 83 and 82 points respectively, he said.

Other countries selected were Switzerland with 104 points, South Africa (78), France (73), Ethiopia (69), Mexico (56), Estonia (55), Iraq (52), Mali (46), United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Russia.The UAE was selected without rivals and Russia was selected in the second round as no countries in East European group received more than half of the total votes.

Ms Somsuda, 57, will be a member of the World Heritage Committee for four years, from now until 2013. She is the second Thai national who won a seat, the first being Dr Adul Wichiencharoen who held a seat for two terms, 1989-1995 and 1997-2003. He chaired the committee in 1991.

The World Heritage Committee establishes sites to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is responsible for implementing the World Heritage Convention, defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from UNESCO members.

Mr Teera said it was expected that during her four-year term as a member of the World Heritage Committee, Ms Somsuda could promote the kingdom's role in the world arena and push Thai historic sites and natural attractions as the world heritage sites.

As Thailand and Cambodia also win seats in the World Heritage Committee, the two countries could coordinate and promote improved bilateral relations and understanding of the dispute over the Preah Vihear Temple.

The border disputes between Thailand and Cambodia flared up after UNESCO granted the historic temple World Heritage Site status in July 2008, as the question of sovereignty over the land having was never clearly resolved.

The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, in a decision that Thailand was reluctant to accept. The surrounding land remains in dispute.

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Hun Sen applauds Cambodia's membership of UN's heritage committee

Phnom Penh - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday welcomed his country's appointment as a member of the World Heritage Committee (WHC), the decision-making body of the UN's cultural body UNESCO.

The committee decides what sites will be awarded World Heritage status, and asks member states to take action when listed properties are not properly managed.

'Cambodia was elected as a member of the WHC thanks to her richness in cultural properties and history including intangible cultural properties, several of which were inscribed on the World Heritage List, namely the Royal Ballet, the Shadow Theatre, Angkor [Wat] area and the temple of Preah Vihear,' Hun Sen said.

Chuch Phoeung, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, told the German Press Agency dpa that the election marked an important step.

'Now that we are on the committee, we will have a voice at the table,' he said. 'We want other sites in Cambodia to be listed because many of our temples and national heritage properties have international value.'

Chuch Phoeung said the annual meeting would provide Cambodia with a good opportunity to raise issues it felt were of importance.

'We are just a small country, but our name is known to the world because of the diversity of our culture,' he said. 'And we want to share our experience in protecting World Heritage Sites to the world, and to learn from other countries to strengthen our knowledge.'

Committee membership is for six years, but most members typically choose a four-year term, UNESCO notes on its website. Cambodia has been a member of UNESCO since 1951, but this is the first time it has been elected to the decision-making board.

Cambodia and Thailand have a long-running disagreement over Preah Vihear, the ancient temple which sits on Cambodia's northern border and was awarded to Cambodia by the World Court in 1962. Some Thai nationalists were angered in 2008 when UNESCO added the site to the World Heritage List.

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Protest over Thaksin invite

BANGKOK - AROUND 100 Thai protesters rallied Tuesday outside the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok after the neighbouring country's premier offered refuge to fugitive former Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra.

Outspoken Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen last week offered safe haven to Thaksin - who was ousted in a coup in 2006 and is living abroad to avoid corruption charges - and suggested he take a job as his finance advisor.

Mr Hun Sen's comments cast a pall over a summit of Asian leaders hosted by Thailand at the weekend and have riled the Thai government, which says that Cambodia must extradite Thaksin if he steps foot on Cambodian soil.

'Hun Sen's action intentionally showed hostility to Thailand, its government and its military as well as the Thai people. It is interference in Thai politics,' said Bangkok protest leader Chaiwat Sinsuwong, adding that Mr Hun Sen should apologise.

Mr Chaiwat is a key member of Thailand's 'Yellow Shirt' movement, which hounded Thaksin's allies out of government last year by blockading Bangkok's airports, but Tuesday's protest was not officially staged by the group.

Security was tightened around the embassy with around 150 officers on guard for the rally, which dispersed without violence after two hours, said district police commander Colonel Samit Choensa-ard.

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PAD protest in front of the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok

A demonstrator holds a banner with pictures of exiled former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen during a rally outside the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok October 27, 2009. The relationship between Thailand and Cambodia, which is already stressed from a border dispute near Preah Vihear temple, was further worsened after comments made by Hun Sen about Shinawatra. Hun Sen offered Shinawatra at the ASEAN summit last week, a job as economic adviser should he choose to seek asylum in Cambodia. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom
Policemen stand guard outside the Cambodian Embassy during a demonstration in Bangkok October 27, 2009. The relationship between Thailand and Cambodia, which is already stressed from a border dispute near Preah Vihear temple, was further worsened after comments made by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen about exiled former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Hun Sen offered Shinawatra at the ASEAN summit last week, a job as economic adviser should he choose to seek asylum in Cambodia. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom
Policemen stand guard outside the Cambodian Embassy during a demonstration in Bangkok October 27, 2009. The relationship between Thailand and Cambodia, which is already stressed from a border dispute near Preah Vihear temple, was further worsened after comments made by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen about exiled former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Hun Sen offered Shinawatra at the ASEAN summit last week, a job as economic adviser should he choose to seek asylum in Cambodia. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom
Thai police officers stand guards as the security is tightened outside the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2009 for ongoing rallies by Thai protestors. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen offered to make Thailand's ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra his economic adviser last week, threatening to worsen already tense relations between the two Southeast Asian neighbors. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)
Thai activists wave Thai flags and chant slogans during a rally against the act of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen toward Thailand outside the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2009. Hun Sen offered to make Thailand's ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra his economic adviser last week, threatening to worsen already tense relations between the two Southeast Asian neighbors. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)
Thai activists set fire a protest placard that represents the treaty between Siam (old name of Thailand) and France during a rally against the act of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen toward Thailand outside the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2009. Hun Sen offered to make Thailand's ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra his economic adviser last week, threatening to worsen already tense relations between the two Southeast Asian neighbors. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

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Cambodia's killing fields 30 years on: 'They will kill our parents tonight... we must escape'

Orphaned Cambodian children in refugee camp in 1979
Young Somaly Lun
Somaly as she is today
With her daughters (All pics: Harry Page, Getty)

It is 30 years since John Pilger revealed the existence of the Cambodian Killing Fields in the Daily Mirror. For Somaly Lun, the anniversary is bittersweet.

Today, customers at the Oxfordshire supermarket checkout where she works have no idea of her extraordinary story.

How she escaped US B-52 bombers as a child, a Khmer Rouge concentration camp as a teenager, and Vietnamese soldiers as a young woman. How she lost her father and six brothers to the Khmer Rouge.

Somaly owes her life in the UK to Oxfam's Marcus Thompson, then a young humanitarian worker who had become friends with Somaly and her husband Borithy.

"England gave me the first safe place I had ever lived," Somaly says.

By the time she was 10, her home town of Kratie was under attack, even though Cambodia was neutral. Kratie was close to the border with Vietnam which was at war with the States, and US President Richard Nixon ordered 100,000 tonnes of secret bombings.

"The B-52s came every day," Somaly recalls. "Every day, shooting and bombing and running." One day a man grabbed her as an F-11 US fighter jet swept low and held her in front of him as a shield. "The plane was so low I could almost see the pilot's face," she says. It permanently damaged her hearing.

Somaly's family fled to Phnom Penh, but by 1975 it had fallen to Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge. Backed by the US against the Vietnamese communists, the Khmer Rouge were determined to return Cambodia to Year Zero, to a time before industrialisation.

"My father, a doctor, was in the middle of an operation the day the Khmer Rouge came," Somaly says. "He said, 'What about the patient?' They pointed a gun at him and asked, 'Do you want to die?'"

Somaly's family were herded out at gunpoint with two million other people. The family was taken to Pursat, a concentration camp in the remote countryside. Then the Khmer Rouge came for Somaly's father.

"They said, 'We know you are a doctor'." The first time, they wanted him to treat one of the leaders. But the second time, "they took him away and he never came back". Somaly was forced to spend 20 hours a day as a slave doing hard labour in the rice fields despite starvation, exhaustion and malaria.

Her older brother was caught saving his food rations for her. "They made him confess he was a US spy," she says. "They kept beating him until he died. Then my younger brother was taken. They put him in a prison with other children, and burned it to the ground. The screams have haunted me ever since.

"One day, they came and took 2,000 people. One of the girls came back like a zombie with blood all over her. She said, 'They killed everyone'." Then, one day a pal whispered: "They are killing our parents and we have to escape now, tonight." Somaly says: "After dark we went to where people were gathered with three big boats."

The Khmer Rouge chased them along the river, firing at the boats. She says: "We hid in the mangrove and caught fish and ate it raw as we didn't dare to make a fire. We drank muddy water. We all became sick - just skin and bones."

Everyone on Somaly's boat was drifting in and out of consciousness. "But somehow it arrived by itself at Kampong Chhnang, where the Khmer Rouge was driven out," she says. "They gave us food, water, shelter."

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New escapees from Pursat told Somaly that thousands had been taken to a cliff and forced off at gunpoint. Yet, somehow her mother, sister and brother had escaped. "The day I saw them again was the happiest day of my life," Somaly says.

When they returned to Phnom Penh in 1979 they found a ghost city occupied by the Vietnamese liberators.

Somaly took a job at the hotel Samaki - now Le Royale - as a receptionist, where she met Borithy, who was working for the Cambodian foreign office as a translator.

She also met Marcus Thompson, a 34-year-old British aid worker sent by Oxfam to set up a humanitarian programme. "We became friends," he remembers. "We were all stuck together at the hotel."

But Cambodia was still dangerous - and Borithy was warned to leave Phnom Penh. "He said he was in love with me and refused to leave without me," Somaly says.

On March 16, 1980, the couple married in secret inside a destroyed pagoda. The next day, they escaped. Passing through fields of landmines, they made it through Vietnamese, then Khmer Rouge territory and even past the Thai border guards to Khao I Dang, a squalid refugee camp on the border. Somaly wrote to her family and to Marcus to tell them they were alive.

"I needed to go to those camps as part of my work," Marcus says. Somaly says she will never forget seeing Marcus walking through the camp. "I cried out 'Marcus!' and just hung on to his neck," she says.

Marcus was shocked by their plight. "They couldn't go back to Cambodia," he says. "The Thais wouldn't accept them. We had to do something."

Back in England, Marcus and his Oxfam colleagues went through official channels to ask whether Britain would accept the family as refugees.

"We had no expectation anything would happen," Marcus says. "But then we got a letter saying 'Yes'."

Somaly, 22 and pregnant, arrived in the UK on May 12, 1981, with Borithy, Somaly's mother Moeun, brother Rithy and sister Virak - and settled close to Marcus and his family in Witney, Oxfordshire.

"People at the Oxfam offices donated all kinds of furniture, saucepans, an old TV, carpets," Somaly remembers.

Today, the couple's daughters are success stories in their own right. The youngest, 23-year-old Bophanie, is a teacher in Brighton, while her sister, Mary Thida Lun, 27, is Assistant Private Secretary to the Minister of State for International Development, Gareth Thomas.

At 64, Marcus still works as an adviser to Oxfam, and the charity remains working in Cambodia, still tackling the legacy of the dark days of the Khmer Rouge and facing new challenges from climate change, typhoons and flooding.

Today, 30 years on, when she goes to and from work at the local supermarket, living her British life, Somaly sometimes remembers the words her father said to her before they took him away.

"He said, 'You are going to survive. You are going to go places'." She shakes her head slowly. "I think that was what gave me the strength to survive."

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What is Hun Sen fishing for?

Monday, October 26, 2009


Hot on the heels of the balloon boy incident in Colorado about 10 days ago, the public display of affection by the threesome - Thaksin-Chavalit-Hun Sen -may also go down in the annals of trivia as a hoax.

The Heenes family grabbed worldwide attention by floating an odd-looking balloon and making the spectacle of a six-year-old boy trapped inside it.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen used Pheu Thai Party adviser Chavalit Yongchaiyudh as a conduit to talk about his buddy-buddy ties with fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

The balloon boy incident was exposed as a sham as soon as the balloon ran out of hot air. The brouhaha about the political threesome will not outlast the hot air coming out of Hun Sen's mouth.

Unlike the balloon-boy incident, which ended up as a joke, Thai and Cambodian citizens may find themselves in the predicament of a dealing with a sick joke that causes unwarranted concern over the mutual interests of the two neighbouring countries.

Thaksin, Chavalit and Hun Sen have undoubtedly tried to gain their respective advantages. But are they striving to serve Cambodia and Thailand or individual agendas?

It is a myth that the Thaksin-Hun Sen ties go back decades. The two were never close before Thaksin came to power in 2001.

Chavalit, though a self-proclaimed expert on Cambodian affairs, has never had a personal bond with Hun Sen. He relied on his aide Wichit Yathip to arrange his trip last week to Phnom Penh.

Wichit, in turn, works through Defence Minister Tea Banh instead of directly dealing with Hun Sen.

Because of Thaksin's personal touch to push for Thailand Inc diplomacy, Hun Sen looked to Bangkok in a favourable light to further the interests of Cambodia.

The Thaksin administration tried to advance the joint development of the overlapping sea boundaries and cross-border projects coinciding with the promotion of Thai satellite business.

Then, and now, Hun Sen's motive is consistently benefit-driven and not his personal ties with Thaksin.

At the peak of Thaksin's popularity in 2003, Hun Sen wanted to lessen Thai domination in the wireless commnunications business. He pushed for the granting of an operating licence to a Japanese operator.

This led to a failed coup in Phnom Penh. Cambodian leaders, particularly those in the Hun Sen camp, had lingering doubts about the involvement of certain Thai figures. Soon after, Hun Sen fanned the Cambodian backlash on a Thai television actress. This in turned led to riots and the torching of the Thai Embassy.

To this day Thaksin and Hun Sen still cast suspicion on one another although they have been boasting about their buddy-buddy ties for mutual gains.

It is noteworthy that Thaksin posted a profuse thank-you note on Twitter but made no mention about accepting Hun Sen's offer for an exile haven.

In light of Hun Sen's temperamental wrath as shown in 2003, Thaksin is justified in being cautious. He should doubly be on guard because he has yet to deliver a lucrative deal for Koh Kong development using the investment funds from the Gulf countries.

The deal was reportedly brokered in Phnom Penh during a round of golf after he was ousted from power.

If Hun Sen and Thaksin both are truly buddies, then the exile in Phnom Phen should have already happened.

Hun Sen's remarks on his undying friendship were designed to grab publicity. Chavalit and Thaksin managed to inflate their international stature in the eyes of the red shirts.

What's in it for Hun Sen? As a big fish in Tonle Sap, the Cambodian prime minister may want to flex his might in the uncharted waters of the Chao Phya.

It is no secret that he feels restless over the stalled talks on the overlapping sea boundaries. But transplanting himself into the thick of Thai politics is guaranteed to get a flak instead of achieving anything favourable for Cambodia.

Should Hun Sen want results in dealing with Thais, he ought to emulate the example set by Burmese Prime Minister General Thein Sein. In contrast to Hun Sen's megaphone diplomacy, Thein Sein tactfully sent a bouquet of flowers with a get-well message to His Majesty.

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