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DA: 'Seriousness of crime' justified charging teens as adults in killing of Long Beach [Cambodian-American] honors student

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Melody Ross
Photo: Tom Love Vinson and Daivion Davis. KTLA

An L.A. County prosecutor said his office decided to charge two teens accused of killing a Long Beach honors student as adults because of the "seriousness of the crime."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Dean Bengston told reporters outside a Long Beach court that the district attorney's office charges juveniles as adults only in "rare instances" but that they warranted in this case because of the nature of the shooting and because authorities believe it was gang-related.

"You have to look at the seriousness of the crime," he said.

Tom Love Vinson and Daivion Davis, identified by authorities as 16-year-old gang members, were each charged with one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder, according to the district attorney's office.

Vinson and Daivion allegedly opened fire a week ago outside the school, striking and killing Melody Ross, a popular 16-year-old who police said was a bystander.

Two men -- an 18-year-old and a 20-year-old -- were wounded in the shooting, which occurred about 10 p.m. as crowds of students gathered near Ximeno Avenue and 10th Street for a dance. Police believe that the men may have been the intended targets and that the shooting was the result of a gang feud.

Ross was wearing a superhero costume to Wilson's homecoming game against Polytechnic High School. A number of students at the game were decked out in costumes on the day before Halloween.

On Friday night, students and the Wilson High School football team honored Ross. There was beefed-up security on campus.

The suspects are being held on $3-million bail and face life in prison if convicted. They will be arraigned today in Long Beach.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thailand recalls envoy from Cambodia, Phnom Penh retaliates in kind
Just as many had feared, the stormy relationship between Thailand and Cambodia was pushed to the edge yesterday when Bangkok responded to fugitive ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra's appointment as the neighbouring country's economic adviser by recalling its ambassador from Phnom Penh.

Cambodia's retaliation - the planned recall of its ambassador here, You Aye, who Deputy Cambodian Prime Minister Sok An said would not return until Bangkok sends its own envoy back - ensured bilateral ties were at their worst level in years.

If Thaksin's appointment was an unmistakable diplomatic provocation, recalling the Thai envoy was the strongest possible response yet - equivalent to a downgrade of relations between the countries.

Former foreign minister Tej Bunnag warned that the ambassadorial recalls meant a major channel of communications had been removed.

The Foreign Ministry recalled Prasas Prasasvinitchai, the ambassador to Phnom Penh, to Bangkok yesterday after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced on Wednesday that Thaksin had been royally appointed as economic adviser and would not be extradited to Thailand.

These new developments add more problems to the ongoing process of boundary demarcation, and border conflicts at the area near the Preah Vihear Temple will become more difficult to resolve.

Now it is up to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to calmly speak to Prime Minister Hun Sen when they meet in Tokyo today and tomorrow at the Japan-Mekong Summit, Tej said.

"Bilateral ties should not be damaged by a single individual," he added.

However, Chavanont Intarakomalyasut, secretary to the foreign minister, said there were no plans for Abhisit to meet Hun Sen during the Tokyo summit.

"We will not call him but if he calls us, we might talk," he said at a press conference. "So far we have nothing to say to him."

Reflecting Bangkok's "enough is enough" attitude, Chavanont said Thailand would not tolerate Hun Sen's behaviour any longer because the government had already explained Thaksin's legal status to him several times.

"Thaksin's appointment is seen as an interference in Thailand's domestic affairs and a failure to respect the Thai judicial system," he said.

Downgrading bilateral relations is always an option for Thailand when it comes to responding to Cambodia. The Kingdom had previously downgraded ties in 2003 after an arson attack at the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh - ironically while Thaksin was prime minister. But that was a brief estrangement because Thaksin was always on good terms with Hun Sen.

However, this Democrat-ruled government is different. It is not clear how long it will take to resume normal relations, because the Thai side is going to review all bilateral agreements and cooperation projects. Thailand has a number of ongoing projects with Cambodia in many areas, including transportation and energy.

Every time relations between the two nations get sour, Thai interests in Cambodia, notably in trade and investment, always get affected. The 2003 riots and the anti-Thai sentiment caused a lot of damage to Thai businesses in the country, and investors were only able to resume their businesses a few years ago.

Thailand currently has scores of investment projects worth billions of baht, but bilateral trade in the first half of this year showed a 25-per-cent contraction from the same period last year, though trade experts believed it would recover in the second half. Border trade was also expected to show signs of recovery if relations had not been jeopardised.

Besides, the situation could become worse if a party in Cambodia stoked anti-Thai sentiment, as happened in 2003.

The only way to maintain bilateral interests would be to mend relations as soon as possible. However, with Thaksin and Hun Sen now the best of friends, observers say things can go either way - better or worse.

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Thailand to Review Cambodia Deals After Thaksin’s Appointment

By Anuchit Nguyen and Daniel Ten Kate
Nov. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Thailand will reconsider agreements with Cambodia after the government in Phnom Penh named fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser, threatening to fan tensions that recently led to gun battles along their border.

Thailand recalled its ambassador from Cambodia yesterday and will now review all accords signed with the country, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters in Bangkok. Thaksin’s appointment is an “interference in Thailand’s domestic affairs and failure to respect Thailand’s judicial system,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The move “hurts the feelings of most Thais,” Abhisit said.

Cambodian leader Hun Sen sparked a diplomatic row last month by comparing Thaksin to Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s detained opposition leader. Hun Sen said he wouldn’t extradite Thaksin, ousted from office in Thailand in a 2006 coup and living in exile after fleeing a two-year prison sentence for abuse of power.

Thaksin has engineered anti-government protests from abroad since he left the country, attacking Abhisit and preparing his allies for a fresh election. President Barack Obama, on his first trip to Asia, is scheduled to co-chair with Abhisit a Nov. 15 summit of Southeast Asian leaders that will include Hun Sen.

A Twitter message posted on Thaksin’s Web site yesterday said the decision to recall the ambassador was “childish” and an “overreaction.” Thaksin lives in Dubai and travels frequently. His spokesman, Phongthep Thepkanjana, didn’t answer calls to his mobile phone.

Border Temple

Relations between the two countries have deteriorated since July 2008, when a Thai court ordered a pro-Thaksin government to withdraw support for Cambodia’s bid to list the Preah Vihear temple as a United Nations World Heritage site. The temple is near an area of land the two countries dispute. Gun battles near the site since then have killed at least six soldiers.

If Thaksin “were actually there and coordinating his people from a base, that would cause problems,” said Robert Broadfoot, managing director of Hong Kong-based Political & Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd. “I don’t think either Hun Sen or the Thais will allow this to spin out of control. Cambodia is just taking the opportunity to get back at what was really a Thai mistake” in objecting to the temple listing.

Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith didn’t answer calls to his cell phone.

Thailand last recalled its ambassador in 2003, when Cambodians burned down the embassy and attacked Thai businesses. Thaksin was Thailand’s prime minister at the time.

Energy Reserves

Thai and Cambodian officials had set up committees to work on demarcating their 803-kilometer (499-mile) land and sea border. The two countries have yet to reconcile 10,422 square miles of disputed waters in the Gulf of Thailand that may contain oil and gas reserves.

Thaksin or his allies have won Thailand’s past four elections since 2001. Since the coup, courts have disbanded two parties linked to him, including the winner of the 2007 election last year that allowed Abhisit to form a coalition. The Thaksin- linked Puea Thai party remains the largest in Parliament.

Thaksin, a billionaire-turned-politician, has claimed the judicial system is biased against him. His opponents say he’s corrupt and wants to upend Thailand’s monarchy.

To contact the reporters on this story: Anuchit Nguyen in Bangkok at; Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok

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Appointing Thaksin 'an insult' to Thai justice system[: Abhisit]

Thailand recalled its ambassador to Phnom Penh yesterday to protest against the appointment of convicted ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra as economic adviser to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government.

At the same time, the government said it wanted to review all bilateral agreements and commitments signed between Thailand and Cambodia by both current and previous administrations.

Ambassador to Cambodia Prasas Prasavinitchai arrived in Bangkok at 9pm.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Thaksin's appointment could be considered as Cambodia intervening in the Thai justice system and disregarding the feelings of Thai people. He added that the Foreign Ministry's actions were aimed at making Cambodia realise the damage it had done.

"We have to implement diplomatic procedures to air our feelings. I have already given Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya the job of making the procedure public," Abhisit said.

The premier insisted that the moves would not affect relations between the Thai and Cambodian public, who will continue to be good neighbours.

"We are conducting the protest at a governmental level," he said.

In an order signed by Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, Thaksin was appointed as economic adviser to Hun Sen and his government on Wednesday.

"Thaksin has already been appointed by royal decree ... as personal adviser to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and the adviser to the Cambodian government in charge of economy," said a statement from the Cambodian government that was read on television yesterday. "Allowing Thaksin to stay in Cambodia is virtuous behaviour ... good friends need to help each other in difficult circumstances."

The statement went on to call charges against Thaksin as being "politically motivated" and vowed not to extradite him if he "decides to stay in Cambodia or travels in and out in order to fulfil his duties".

Upon his arrival in Thailand last month to attend the Asean summit, Hun Sen announced that he had offered Thaksin, whom he regards as a close friend, a residence and a job.

The Foreign Ministry's decision to recall the Thai ambassador is the strongest protest in years and the government has said all ongoing cooperation between the two nations would be put on hold for the time being.

The foreign minister's secretary, Chavanont Intarakomalsut, agreed with Abhisit and reiterated that giving Thaksin a job could be seen as Cambodia intervening in the Thai justice system.

"Thaksin's appointment is an insult to the Thai justice system," he said at a press conference.

Giving Thaksin the job clearly shows that the Cambodian premier cannot distinguish between personal interests and the mutual interests of the two countries, Chavanont said.

Before the decision to recall the envoy was made, Abhisit called a meeting with Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and senior army officers, including Army chief General Anupong Paochinda, early yesterday before meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the ministers had unanimously agreed to go ahead with the measures.

"Cambodia has sent us a clear signal and this is not the first time. It is obvious that they cannot separate international ties from personal friendships, so we have no other choice," he said.

He added that Kasit would discuss the issue with high-ranking officials at Foreign Ministry and see what level the Thailand-Cambodia diplomatic ties should be downgraded to.

When asked if Abhisit would discuss the issue with Hun Sen, because both are due to attend a mini-summit in Tokyo of leaders from countries in the Mekong Basin on Friday and Saturday, Panitan said: "We are willing, if he [Hun Sen] wants to talk."

In related news, reports say that the Cambodian army is on alert at the border area near the disputed Preah Vihear temple, where the two countries last fought in April.

"The situation is calm, but we're on alert. The prime minister has already ordered us to protect our territory," deputy commander-in-chief of the Cambodian armed forces Chea Dar said yesterday.

"Cambodia will not invade Thai territory, but if Thai troops enter even one-centimetre into our territory, they will be destroyed," he added.

Meanwhile, Thaksin sent out a Twitter message yesterday accusing the Thai government of behaving like a child and overreacting by recalling the Thai envoy from Phnom Penh.

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What is Thaksin prepared to do now?


Thaksin Shinawatra claimed it was "an honour" to be appointed Cambodia's economic adviser. As his motherland is staring at a major diplomatic row with a close neighbour and businessmen in both countries are bracing themselves for an unpredictable impact, there is a thin line between "honour" and "shame".

In his fight to clear his name, Thaksin has stopped at virtually nothing. And even after the Thai ambassador to Phnom Penh was recalled and Bangkok decided to cut assistance to Cambodia, he showed no signs of guilt, concern or remorse. Bangkok was being childish and overreacting, he tweeted.

Thaksin's blurring sense of patriotism is understandable. Having been ousted by a military coup, convicted for a crime he refuses to accept and seen his own political movement neutralised one after another, he can be forgiven for trying to embarrass his opponents who are holding the reins of power. But everything has its boundary - and Thaksin has crossed it.

Only he and Cambodian Premier Hun Sen know whether the controversial asylum offer and the economic-adviser appointment were out of the latter's own goodwill or the former Thai leader had a hand in it. But even if Thaksin had nothing to do with the Cambodian moves, the least he could have done is show he cared about his country.

A neighbourly row of this nature can easily encompass the fighting colours in Thai politics. It threatens the whole country, be it yellows or reds or neutral Thais. Disruption of trade, border blockades, troop redeployment and the subsequent mounting tension on the already-strained relations will not discriminate against anyone.

Thaksin could have said "No, but thank you" to the Cambodian offer, but he has chosen to inflame the situation by saying the Thai government was overreacting, like a child. This came from someone who should have known better, who witnessed first-hand as a Thai leader what misunderstandings between the countries could lead to and who was on the verge of sending commandos into Cambodia himself to rescue Thai diplomats and businessmen running for their lives from angry torch-wielding protesters.

The difference between now and then is the attack on the Thai Embassy may have been caused by an accident, but this time there are people who seemingly want it to happen. Thaksin stands out among them. Hun Sen cannot drag himself into the Thai fray without Thaksin showing the way. If Thaksin's opponents' hardline stand on the Preah Vihear conflict was what first strained bilateral relations, things took a major turn for the worse when Thaksin's representative, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, visited Phnom Penh and kick-started the asylum-offer episode.

What is Thaksin prepared to do now? On one side is a country he once called home, where he is both loved and loathed, but on the other side is a place that is offering him comfort. A truly grateful man would do anything but pit both countries against each other.

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Thailand needs to make diplomatic retaliation against Cambodia: Abhisit

Thai ambassador leaving Cambodia (Photo: DAP)

Thursday, November 05, 2009
The Nation

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Thursday that Thailand needed to make diplomatic retaliation against Cambodia's interference of Thailand's internal affairs.

"The Foreign Ministry has to take action so that Cambodia will learn about the feelings of Thai people," Abhisit said.

"Since Cambodia mentioned our internal affairs, we had to retaliate in line with the diplomatic protocol."

He was speaking to reporters after the Foreign Ministry announce the recalling of its ambassador to Phnom Penh after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra his economic advisor.

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Canadian jailed for indecency with Cambodian sisters: judge

PHNOM PENH - A 68-year-old Canadian man has been jailed for a year for indecent acts with two Cambodian sisters aged 10 and 12, a judge said Thursday.

Daniel Lavigne, who has been in jail since his January arrest in the popular seaside resort of Sihanoukville, was also ordered to pay 500 dollars in fines after his conviction, judge Kim Eng told AFP.

"I sentenced him this morning to serve one year in jail for his indecent act against minor girls," the Sihanoukville court judge said.

Lavigne denied any wrongdoing and told police that he was the boyfriend of the girls' mother, Kim Eng added.

Dozens of foreigners have been jailed for child sex crimes or deported to face trial in their home countries since Cambodia launched an anti-paedophilia push in 2003 to try to shake off its reputation as a haven for sex predators.

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Thailand recalls envoy to Phnom Penh in protest against Cambodia

BANGKOK, Nov 5 (TNA) - Thailand's Ministry of Foreign affairs on Thursday recalled the Thai envoy to Phnom Penh, in its first step of retaliation to Cambodia after it has appointed convicted former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as personal advisor to Cambodian Premier Hun Sen and advisor on economy to his government.

The Thai foreign ministry reasoned that the Cambodian decision to appoint Mr Thaksin and its stated intention to deny Thailand's request to extradite the ex-Thai premier to face jail in Thailand means that the neighbouring country could not differentiate the bilateral relations of the two nations from personal ties, although the Thai government has repeatedly informed the Cambodian government that the two kingdoms' relationship must remain beyond personal ties.

The Thai foreign ministry said the decision made by the Cambodian government affects the feelings of the Thai people, as Mr Thaksin has been convicted of offenses and escaped jail, at the same time, he still has influence over domestic politics.

Mr Thaksin’s appointment as economic advisor of the Cambodian government and as personal advisor to Mr Hun Sen means that Cambodia is now intervening Thailand's domestic affairs and harming the Thai justice procedure, according to the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Thai government cannot continue inattentive to the matter and must listen to the voice and sentiments of Thai people nationwide, said the foreign ministry, adding that the government must show its stance to let Cambodia know of the dissatisfaction of the Thai people.

The ministry said that Thailand has decided to review the Thai-Cambodian relationship and recall its ambassador to Phnom Penh, and review all commitments and cooperation between the two kingdoms.

The Thai ministry said that the Thai government has no choice, but must review bilateral cooperation although Thailand has always intended to work closely with Cambodia for the well-being of the Cambodian people and reduce gap between Cambodians and other ASEAN citizens.

The ministry said Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has been informed of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’s stance, simultaneously affirming that the Thai reaction is based on appropriate diplomatic measures, but is not aimed at igniting any violence.

The Thai prime minister later reaffirmed that Thailand will use only diplomatic measures as retaliation against Cambodia.

"Cambodia's decision affects the feelings of Thai people," Mr Abhisit reiterated. "The Thai foreign ministry must show Thailand's stance to let the Cambodian government know the feeling of the Thai people."

Mr Abhisit said checkpoints on border between the two countries would remain open and people-to-people relations would not be affected.

Tensions between Thailand and Cambodia heightened when Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen announced while attending the 15th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Hua Hin at the end of October that Mr Thaksin, whom he described as his close friend, could remain in Cambodia as his personal guest and could be his economic advisor.

Mr Hun Sen insisted that Cambodia will reserve its right to deny any request by Thailand to extradite ousted prime minister Thaksin if he stays there as Mr Thaksin case’s is only a political offense.

Mr Thaksin, ousted in a bloodless coup in September 2006, was later convicted and sentenced to a two-year jail term for malfeasance in the controversial Bangkok Ratchadapisek land purchase.

The ousted premier however jumped bail and fled the kingdom. He is reportedly living the United Arab Emirates, but his Thai passport was revoked and his visas to the United Kingdom and Germany were cancelled.

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Cambodia recalls ambassador to Thailand over Thaksin issue

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 5 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian government on Thursday evening announced to temporarily call back its Ambassador to Thailand, a move came shortly after Thai government's recall of its ambassador to Cambodia.

The decision was announced at 8:30 pm local time by Sok An, minister of council of ministers, at a hastily arranged press conference.

"The move we took is a response to Thai's recall of its Ambassador to Cambodia," Sok An said, adding that "That we appointed Thaksin as our government's adviser is Cambodia's internal affairs and conforms to international practice."

Earlier Thursday, the Thai government decided to recall its Ambassador to Cambodia to protest against the appointment of the ousted former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatre as adviser of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Royal Government.

The Cambodian government announced on Wednesday that former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was officially appointed as adviser of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Royal Government of Cambodia by King Norodom Sihamoni. Moreover, the Cambodian government will not allow to extradite the ex-Thai premier.

Also, the Thai government said that it is ready to demand of revising bilateral agreements, which have been agreed by the two countries, Thai News Agency reported.

The Thai government's movement is based on diplomatic principle, which does not intend to any violence to occur between the two neighboring countries, the report said.

Ties between Cambodia and Thailand have been difficult since July 2008 amid an ongoing border conflict over land surrounding an11th century temple which has claimed several lives. The withdrawal of ambassadors was the most severe diplomatic actions thus far in ongoing tensions between the two countries which will only result in a further worsening of the relations between them.

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Thailand, Cambodia pull envoys in row over Thaksin

BANGKOK - Thailand and Cambodia recalled their respective ambassadors Thursday after Phnom Penh sparked a furious diplomatic row by naming fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as its economic adviser.

The tit-for-tat withdrawals plunged relations between the neighbouring countries to a new low after they fought a series of deadly clashes during the past year over disputed land around an ancient temple on their border.

The Cambodian government announced the appointment of Thaksin on state television late Wednesday, riling Bangkok as it attempts to bring home the billionaire to face justice three years after he was ousted in a coup.

"We have recalled the ambassador as the first diplomatic retaliation measure to let the Cambodian government know the dissatisfaction of the Thai people," Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters.

Aid projects and bilateral agreements with Cambodia would be reviewed, but checkpoints on the tense border would remain open, Abhisit added.

Thai foreign ministry official Chavanond Intarakomalyasut told AFP that the appointment of Thaksin "is considered interfering in our internal politics because Thaksin is still actively involved in politics."

Cambodia hit back hours later, with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An saying that it was withdrawing its envoy from Bangkok as a "temporary measure" until Thailand sent its envoy back to Phnom Penh.

Sok An said the recalls would not affect trade or raise tensions along the border.

Twice-elected Thaksin remains a hugely influential figure in Thailand, which has been rocked by years of protests by his red-clad supporters and yellow-clad opponents, including rallies that shut down Bangkok's airports last year.

The one-time policeman is currently living in exile to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption. Bangkok has confiscated his passport, meaning that he travels on documents from other countries, and has issued a warrant for his arrest.

The current saga began in October when outspoken Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen offered refuge to Thaksin, and then followed it up at an Asian summit two weeks ago by offering him a job as his finance adviser.

Thaksin said in a Twitter posting that he thanked Hun Sen for the appointment but still wanted to work for Thailand's well-being.

"I thank His Excellency Hun Sen and I just received a copy which was signed by King Sihamoni. It's an honour. But it's not going to be fun like working to help Thai people out of poverty," Thaksin said.

Thailand has urged Cambodia to extradite Thaksin if he enters the neighbouring country, but Cambodia says it will not and that the charges against him were politically motivated.

Relations between the two predominantly Buddhist nations have been strained since July 2008 by the ongoing border conflict over land surrounding an 11th century Cambodian temple after it was granted UN World Heritage status.

The Cambodian military said the situation was calm on the border but that Hun Sen had ordered forces to remain on "high alert" around the disputed Preah Vihear temple, where the two countries last fought in April.

"Cambodia will not invade Thai territory, but if Thai troops enter our territory even one centimetre they will be destroyed," said Chea Dara, deputy commander-in-chief of Cambodia's armed forces.

The Thai and Cambodian prime ministers are both due to attend a mini summit of leaders from Mekong Basin countries in the Japanese capital Tokyo on Friday and Saturday.

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Situation 'normal' on Thailand's border with Cambodia, says Thai army

BANGKOK, Nov 5 (TNA) - The Thai army says it’s business as usual, that the situation remains normal on the Cambodian border, and that no special instructions have been received from the government after Thailand’s envoy to Cambodia was recalled in protest against the Cambodian decision to appoint convicted former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as economic adviser, according to Army spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd.

Col Sansern said that Army chief Gen Anupong Paochinda made no specific order, saying that he had not received any new instruction from the government.

He said the local commanders of both countries at border bases normally have close contact and that there is no need to confront each other, while the military attache in Cambodia was working normally.

He affirmed that that was no sign that the situation could lead to the use of force.

Second Army Area Commander Lt-Gen Weewalit Jornsamrit said that the situation along Thailand and Cambodia border was normal, and no reinforcement was noted by either country.

The recall of the Thai ambassador to Cambodia was the government's decision to use diplomatic measures to protest to the Cambodian government, he said, adding that he believed the political issue would have no impact on the border situation.

Relations between Thai and Cambodian military personnel remained good, he added.

Thailand's Ministry of Foreign affairs on Thursday recalled the Thai envoy to Phnom Penh, in its first step of retaliation to Cambodia after it appointed Mr Thaksin personal advisor to Cambodian Premier Hun Sen and advisor on economy to his government.

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Exit polls: Independents voting for Republicans in gov races

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

(CNN) – Independents appear to be playing an important role in the country's two off-year gubernatorial races and in both states, and they are voting Republican.

In Virginia, where 30 percent of voters identify themselves as independent, 65 percent cast their ballots for CNN's projected winner, Republican Bob McDonnell. That's according to early CNN Exit Poll data. Democrat Creigh Deeds earned the votes of 34 percent of independents.

In New Jersey, the projected winner, Republican Chris Christie, took 60 percent of the independent vote while incumbent Governor Jon Corzine, a Democrat, got only 30 percent. The candidate running as an official Independent, Chris Daggett, got just 9 percent of the independent vote. Independents made up 28 percent of the voters in New Jersey race.

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Analysis: Elections not a referendum on Obama

Washington (CNN) -- Victories in New Jersey and Virginia Tuesday provided a major shot in the arm for the Republican Party heading into the 2010 elections, but the Democratic losses of these two governorships should not be interpreted as a significant blow to President Obama.

While the economy and jobs were the chief concern for voters in both states, 26 percent of New Jersey residents said property taxes was also a major issue, while another 20 percent mentioned corruption, according to CNN exit polling. In a similar CNN survey taken in Virginia, health care was the most important issue for 24 percent of the voters, while 15 percent named taxes and transportation was mentioned by 7 percent.

Further proof that this election was not solely focused on Obama, 56 percent of Virginians said that the president was not a factor when it came down to their vote. In New Jersey, that number increased to 60 percent of the people who went to the polls on Tuesday.

Perhaps this was the problem for Virginia Sen. Creigh Deeds and New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.

Neither Democratic candidate was Obama; neither was a great spokesman for "change;" and Democratic strategists and grassroots activists said each candidate failed to give independents a reason to support them.

Still, in the coming days a storyline will develop that this was a referendum on Obama and his policies.

At the same time, another narrative will continue to evolve over the future of the Republican Party as grassroots conservative activists seek to increase their influence following the success of forcing the centrist Republican nominee in a New York congressional special election from the race.Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman's loss to Democratic nominee Bill Owens was just a side note in a greater story about the beginning of a civil war between conservative activists and party leaders as the GOP seeks to rebuild after suffering devastating losses in 2008.

Two story lines, whether right or wrong, that will help shape the thinking, the strategy and the politics of Democrats and Republicans heading into the midterm elections.

Embrace Obama's agenda

The inclination by some Democrats seeking reelection next year might be to run away from Obama and chart an independent path believing that he was at least partially to blame for the defeats of Corzine and Deeds. But Democratic strategists and activists caution that this is the wrong decision to make. In order to win in 2010, these Democrats said candidates need to embrace the president and embrace his policy goals.

"You want to run as somebody who is supporting the Obama agenda, with an exception here or there, instead of being disdainful," said Steve Murphy, a consultant who works with conservative Democratic incumbents and challengers.

Jane Hamsher, founder of the liberal political blog firedoglake, noted that it is freshmen and sophomore Democrats who won by narrow margins in 2006 and 2008, who "are scared" of losing their seats in 2010.

"I would suggest that appealing to Republican interests is not the best way to turn out Democrats," Hamsher said. "It is just a fact of life. They have to turn out Democrats."

The problem does not just lie with House and Senate Democrats. It is an issue for the White House.

Obama's political operatives must decide how best to help their allies in Congress win next year. In 2008, African-Americans turned out for Obama, young people turned out for Obama and independent voters looking for "change" turned out for Obama.

"The political challenges for this White House will be to transfer this kind of political power to other candidates," said a veteran Democratic strategist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to draw fire from the Obama administration.

On Tuesday, the Obama magic did not rub off on Corzine or Deeds.

In New Jersey, while Corzine overwhelmingly won among African-Americans, only 14 percent of the vote was black; young people, age 18 to 29, made up 9 percent of the vote and 36 percent of them backed Republican Chris Christie. Meanwhile, 60 percent of independents supported Christie as well.

The numbers were worse for Deeds in Virginia. Ten percent of the electorate was age 18 to 29 and Republican Bob McDonnell captured 54 percent of this voting bloc. Deeds overwhelmingly carried the African-American vote that made up16 percent of people who turned out on Tuesday, while 66 percent of voters who identified themselves as independents backed McDonnell.

The White House has already played an active role in the 2010 mid-term elections and now the question is whether the Obama political operation will try to devise a formula to catch lightning in a bottle once again to help Democratic allies on Capitol Hill.

GOP civil war

For the past year, the Republican Party has been without a national leader as it works to rebuild after losing the White House and additional House and Senate seats in 2008. At times, the likes of talk radio host Rush Limbaugh has helped drive the conversation, but it is the grassroots activists who have emerged as important players in the reconstruction of the GOP.

Hoffman's loss certainly doesn't help these conservatives, but it is not a fatal blow, either. The battle for these activists was with the GOP leadership, and they won by successfully pushing GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava out of the race.

It is just the beginning, said conservative leader Richard Viguerie. "We want to take the party back to a small government party," he said. "The train has left the station. The battle has been engaged."

And by engaged, Viguerie means by the non-traditional conservatives who have rallied around the Tea Party idea.

"There are new people," he said. "They are saying it is time to lock and load and go to war with these establishment Republicans."

But is an internal battle in the GOP good for the party?

Conservative columnist Matt Lewis said he thinks that these internal struggles help to strengthen the party in the long run.

"This is a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party," Lewis said. "Political parties ought to have vigorous primary campaigns, fight it out in the primaries over ideological battles."

Lewis predicts seeing more primary challengers emerge to take on GOP establishment candidates following a path blazed by Marco Rubio in Florida and Chuck DeVore in California.

"I happen to think when Republicans stay conservative, Republicans win," Lewis said.

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Man Sam An, CVFA and the Imbalance of Power inside CPP

The odd is still the same, when Vietnam can put new one on the top, the rests and former top will become paralyzed or extinct.

How good method like this? Vietnam has used it very effectively. Vietnam will never lose benefit in utilizing Khmers fight with Khmers for power. Khmers who are paranoid in power will get the power when they can act as a real lackey to Vietnam.

Reading this article, I would like to say congratulation Man Sam An for your gut to abide by perspective and order of Vietnamese leaders regarding Sam Rainsy and the border poles.

As we can observe, Cambodia's history has repeated again and again. Who served best to Vietnamese interests, that person can exceed their position to the highest post promptly.

For instance, Pol Pot came to power because of his obey to Vietnamese top leaders in their campaign to overturn America and Lon Nol. When Pol Pot disengaged from Vietnam; Hun Sen, Chea Sim and Heng Samrin were the best candidates for Vietnam to overturn Pol Pot. Impressively, when Pen Sovann was not really their servant, Vietnam quickly installed younger Hun Sen to power inside the same party.

Now, Man Sam An who is listenable to Vietnam and she is also the president of Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Association (CVFA), if she can achieve this task of suing Sam Rainsy, she will be raised up high, or we can say she can be higher than Sar Keng who is the current highest deputy prime minister. Man Sam An has been running faster than brilliant Sok An and other prime minister deputies.

The odd is still the same, when Vietnam can put new one on the top, the rests and former top will become paralyzed or extinct.

How good method like this? Vietnam has used it very effectively. Vietnam will never lose benefit in utilizing Khmers fight with Khmers for power. Khmers who are paranoid in power will get the power when they can act as a real lackey to Vietnam.

In contradict, as we are Khmers, we can ask simple question that "how can Man Sam An worship Vietnam by jailing our same Khmer race accordingly?".

In reality, Vietnam just wants to test their tiny trick to lure Hun Sen into their trap. If just this poles of border, Vietnam can sue or jail Sam Rainsy, it explicitly shows about many previous treaties that Hun Sen, Chea Sim and Heng Samrin had severally signed with Vietnam.

Vietnamese leader is using this issue to sue Sam Rainsy in order to threaten those CPP's leaders not to get away from them under the prospect of laws.

Sam Rainsy has done nothing wrong, and I want to see Man Sam An realize the truth that finally she will become a victim because of her affinity towards Vietnamese leader in taming their own Khmer race. Pol Pot is a good example for Man Sam An


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VN slams Sam Rainsy for border post stunt

THE Kingdom's main opposition party is defending its leader's tactics after the Vietnamese and Cambodian governments condemned Sam Rainsy for uprooting posts marking the tenuous border between the two countries.

In a media statement, Sam Rainsy Party officials said the government had launched a lawsuit against the opposition leader after he removed six markers last week along the border with Vietnam in Svay Rieng province.

"We have not done anything wrong, so we are not scared of anything at all," SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said Tuesday. He admitted he was unsure whether a lawsuit had actually been filed, but said that the party was prepared for legal action following government comments published in the media.

Svay Rieng provincial Governor Cheang Am could not be reached for comment Tuesday but said last week that the law should hold Sam Rainsy responsible.

After uprooting the border posts last week, Sam Rainsy said that the markers had been illegally placed by Vietnamese authorities.

In a statement issued Friday, Vietnam's foreign ministry condemned Sam Rainsy's actions and asked the government to protect the nations' ongoing border demarcation process. The statement called Sam Rainsy's act "perverse, undermining common assets, violating laws of Cambodia and Vietnam, treaties, agreements and deals between the two countries”.

In 2006, Cambodia and Vietnam officially began demarcating their contentious 1,270-kilometre border in an effort to end decades of territorial disputes.

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Thailand want 2/3 right of oil and gas in "overlapping" sea territory with Cambodia? 'Use Thai-VN model with Cambodia' on oil

The Mineral Fuels Department says Thailand and Vietnam's solution for the problem of overlapping sea territory is also best for a similar problem between the Kingdom and Cambodia regarding oil and gas exploration.

Director-general Kurujit Nakornthap said the model would benefit Cambodia more than other solutions would.

Thailand and Vietnam agreed to divide the overlapping area, with Thailand owning 67 per cent and Vietnam 33 per cent.

Kurujit said with a similar division between Thailand and Cambodia, the latter could enter into joint-venture agreements with private concessionaires and gain full technology transfers from them on its own without needing to discuss the matter with Thailand.

Thailand also solved a similar problem with Malaysia by setting up a joint juristic organisation to develop the entire area and share the benefits evenly. That area has been found to contain natural-gas reserves of 10 trillion cubic feet.

Kurujit said the problem of the overlapping territory between Thailand and Cambodia, amounting to 26,000 square kilometres, should be resolved quickly, as that would afford benefits to both countries in terms of gas-field development.

If the problem is prolonged indefinitely, both countries would lose business opportunities if other sources of energy, such as wind and solar power, became popular and inexpensive to produce in the interim. This would make the value of Thailand's existing but as-yet-untapped natural resources decline.

Thailand has already set up a committee led by Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban to solve this problem, but the two countries have yet to reach a conclusion. Meanwhile, neither one can allow companies holding concessions for oil and gas exploration in the area to operate.

Thailand granted rights to private companies to explore in the area in 1971, but a 1975 Cabinet resolution suspended exploration after learning it overlapped with Cambodia's territory.

Cambodia has also granted exploration rights to private companies, including Total.

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China looks to export censorship

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Protesters and police in central Urumqi - 3 September 2009
Fears about ethnic tension could be motivating China's censorship efforts
A few days before the start of

A few days before the start of this year's Melbourne International Film Festival its executive director received an "audacious" telephone call.

An official from China's consulate in the city called him to "urge" the festival to withdraw a film about the Chinese activist Rebiya Kadeer.

Beijing then tried to persuade the organisers of the Frankfurt Book Fair not to allow two Chinese writers to attend an event.

China says it does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

But some see these acts as an attempt by China to use abroad the tough censorship measures it constantly employs at home.

Intimidation and threats

Richard Moore, the Melbourne festival's executive director, said he was astonished to receive the call from the city's Chinese consulate.

"It came down to [the consular official] saying we need to justify our decision to include the film in the programme. It was a remarkable display of confidence and arrogance," he said.

The festival decided to ignore the advice and go ahead with the film - about an activist who campaigns for better rights for China's Uighur minority - but that did not end the issue.

The festival organisation was subjected to an intense campaign of threats, intimidation and disruption, although it is not clear who - if anyone - orchestrated the campaign.

The festival e-mail address received insulting messages, there were waves of annoying phone calls and the fax machine was jammed with callers.

Chinese author and environmental campaigner Dai Qing
Chinese officials objected to writer Dai Qing speaking in Frankfurt

Some notes to the organisers contained messages threatening Mr Moore's family.

Internet hackers managed to break into the festival's online booking site, making it appear that session tickets had been sold out.

Hackers also managed to post a Chinese flag on the main website and Chinese film-makers withdrew their movies from the festival.

The film at the centre of the controversy - called The 10 Conditions of Love - was finally shown at a larger venue, partly because the publicity surrounding the row increased interest.

Its subject, Rebiya Kadeer, was also invited to take part in a talk at the festival, which took place in July and August.

But Mr Moore admits that the event organisers will look hard at how to showcase controversial films at future festivals.

The Chinese government was just as direct with the organisers of the Frankfurt Book Fair, an annual event that bills itself as a "worldwide marketplace for ideas".


China was the guest of honour at this October's fair and Beijing funded a series of events to showcase its literature and culture.

But Chinese officials were angry when they found out writers Dai Qing and Bei Ling had been invited to a symposium connected to the fair.

China is using its economic influence to threaten its trade partners in order to censor what they don't like
Dai Qing, author

Anger over web censorship
China seeks 'open' control

According to Juergen Boos, the fair's director, China asked the organisers to ban the writers, a request they initially agreed to carry out.

The two Chinese writers were then allowed to speak at the symposium, but when they stood up to make a speech some of the Chinese delegation left the room.

"We did not come to be instructed about democracy," a former Chinese ambassador told the event organisers.

China often asks foreign governments and organisations not to do something that it perceives to be against its interests. It recently complained to Japan when Tokyo allowed Ms Kadeer to enter the country.

But it says this does not contravene its policy of non-interference.

"I believe the Chinese government has not violated the principle of interfering in others' internal affairs," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu recently in response to a question about this policy.

But writer Dai Qing, who is also an environmental campaigner, believes China's increasing economic muscle has emboldened the country's leaders.

"China is using its economic influence to threaten its trade partners in order to censor what they don't like," she said.

David Zweig, of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, is not so sure the Chinese are doing it from a position of strength.

"Sometimes we cannot tell whether it's confidence or concern," said Mr Zweig, the director of the Centre on China's Transnational Relations, based at his university.

He said China's attempts to prevent Ms Kadeer from speaking publicly, for example, could be linked to concerns about ethnic tension in Xinjiang, where most Uighurs live.

Hundreds of Uighurs rioted in July, killing scores of Han Chinese people.

Mr Zweig added that there could also be another reason behind the pressure - the Chinese government and its people are often quick to take offence at opinions they do not like to hear.

And he said ordinary people were sometimes more sensitive than officials - forcing the government to take a tougher stance internationally.

That could be why China is now trying to censor critical opinions abroad.

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Vietnamese see funny side of sex

Two women in traditional ao dai dress in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon - file photo
Despite rapid development, Vietnam is a conservative society

Vinh, a 24-year-old man, says his parents never talked to him about sex.

"But they would make jokes about it so that I know what they expect from me," he says.

Vinh is from Hue, one of the most traditional cities in Vietnam, but this attitude is found throughout the country, according to the authors of the first survey into sex and sexual attitudes carried out in the communist state for 50 years.

By turning it into a joke some parents and children find it is easier to talk about sex without being judged or getting embarrassed.

This attitude seems to apply to all, young and old in Vietnam.

But for some the subject really is no laughing matter. The communist state is deeply conservative and sex is a highly sensitive subject.


Economic liberalisation and development has made Vietnam a more open society and there has been a noticeable change in sexual behaviour.

Medical experts say increasing numbers of people are having sex below the age of consent, leading to rising numbers of unmarried women having abortions.

There is also the problem posed by unprotected sex and more people contracting HIV.

Faced with these dilemmas, there have been discussions about putting sex education on the school curriculum at an early age.

Based on the findings of the sex survey, some people think that may not be such a bad idea.

Hongh Hanh, Radio presenter in vietnam
All male callers said that sex before marriage for men is normal and okay, but they would not want to get married to someone who has lost her virginity through sex
Hong Hanh
Radio presenter

Researchers spoke to 245 people in both the rural and urban areas over six years.

They discovered that teenagers or young adults "never" or "hardly ever" talk to their parents about sex.

The parents too admit that they do not speak to their children about it.

For those who do feel they should discuss the subject with their children, just how to broach it is difficult.

Diep Hoa, a mother of two, is typical in this regard. She says she used a letter to talk to her 17-year-old daughter about sex.

"I wrote to her and gave the letter to her on the day she left home to go to study abroad. I told her that I would like her to read it while on the plane", explains Mrs Hoa.

"I mentioned a lot of things in the letter, including sex and relationships. I would like her to understand what love is, what sexual relationships are and the consequences when one loses control of their sexual desires."

Gender prejudice

The survey also found that what is okay for a man is not okay for a woman.

Hong Hanh is a 22-year-old presenter of a live radio programme on HIV and Aids prevention targeted at young people.

"All male callers said that sex before marriage for men is normal and okay, but they would not want to get married to someone who has lost her virginity through sex," Hanh says.

My parents say if you get her pregnant before marriage, you both won't be allowed to go in the house by the front door
Vinh, Hue

According to Dr Khuat Thu Hong, one of the three authors of the research, "Vietnamese people have a very poor, misperceived and somehow one-sided view about sex, because there is no open or serious discussion of the matter."

According to her this is very dangerous because "it leads to a lot of wrongly imposed sexual perceptions toward men and women, and it limits both sexes from enjoying a sexual relationship."

Some experts say that sex education, which is only taught in some schools, should be made compulsory because young people would benefit from the knowledge provided to them in a serious manner rather than through jokes.

However, there has been opposition to this suggestion from those who uphold what they call "traditional values".

The funny side

Teachers too find the subject highly embarrassing, and some parents and children see nothing wrong with discussing a highly taboo subject in a humorous way.

Back in his very traditional hometown, Vinh smiles and gives some examples of what his parents tell him.

Dr Khuat Thu Hong report author
Report author Dr Khuat Thu Hong says sex should be taken seriously

"They say: 'If you get her pregnant before marriage, you both won't be allowed to go in the house by the front door', or 'you won't be allowed to go near our ancestors' altar'.

"Another favourite is: 'We will have to make a small shed near the pigsty for you to live in!'"

This indirect and light-hearted way that some parents use to talk to their children about sex as a means of educating them is also a warning to children of the consequences of sex before marriage.

But faced with rising underage sex and HIV, Dr Hong says it is about time that Vietnamese learned to talk openly about the subject.

And she hopes that the findings of the first sex survey in half a century will help change social perceptions and understanding of what remains an extremely delicate matter.

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Xinjiang police to 'strike hard'

Security forces in Urumqi, Xinjiang, China (13 July 2009)
Xinjiang has seen a high security presence since the unrest

Security forces in the Chinese province of Xinjiang have said they will "strike hard" against crime and disorder.

Officials vowed to "root out" crime and "change the face of the public security" in the western province, after deadly unrest earlier this year.

Nearly 200 people died in July's rioting between ethnic Uighurs and members of the majority Han group.

A total of 21 people have been found guilty of involvement in the unrest and 12 people have been sentenced to death.

The Xinjiang authorities, quoted in state media, said the "strike hard and rectify" campaign would run until the end of the year to "further consolidate the fruits of maintaining stability and eliminate security dangers".

They said they would "root out places where criminals breed, and change the face of the public security situation in these areas".

The Xinhua news agency said local police would continue to hunt down suspects in the riots and "keep a close eye on clues and cases involving terrorism and explosions".

Swift justice

The violence in Xinjiang erupted on 5 July, when protest by ethnic Uighurs left at least 197 people dead and another 1,700 injured. Two days later, groups of Han went looking for revenge as police struggled to restore order.

Most of those killed were Han, according to officials, and Urumqi's Han population had demanded swift justice.

Last week, the death sentences against 12 people were upheld by an appeals court.

China says it is facing a separatist uprising from Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, but critics say Beijing is exaggerating the threat to justify its tight control of the province.

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Death toll rise in Vietnam floods

A couple brave crossing a flooded railway in the central Vietnamese province of Binh Dinh (2 Nov 2009)
The effects of the floods are worse than initially thought, officials say

Wide-scale floods in central Vietnam have killed more people than officials originally estimated, after a tropical storm wreaked havoc in the region.

Tropical storm Mirinae killed at least 13 people in a number of provinces, although some reports suggest up to 40 perished in the floods that followed.

The hardest-hit provinces include Phu Yen, Kanah Hoa, Gia Lai and Binh Dinh.

Soldiers have been sent in to help rescue people from the estimated 2,600 households destroyed by the storm.

An official from Vietnam's national disaster committee told reporters that most of the recorded deaths were due to the floods, with Phu Yen province worst hit.

'Mass evacuations'

An estimated 338 millimetres (13 inches) of rain fell in Vietnam's central provinces, the disaster committee states.

Around 2,600 houses and 4,400 acres (1,800 hectares) of farmland have been destroyed, it believes.

Vietnam says more than 50,000 people were evacuated from coastal regions before the storm hit on Monday night.

State television showed pictures of people stuck on roofs of houses, and rescuers attempting to take children and the elderly to safety.

Helicopters loaded with emergency food supplies have been dispatched to isolated villages, and to rescue the most vulnerable, the government says.

Over the weekend Mirinae - which was then at Typhoon strength - crossed over the northern Philippines, which is still reeling after being hit by unrelenting bad weather in recent months.

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Indonesian anti-graft pair freed

Indonesian students rally in support of the country's anti-corruption agency
Protests have been held in Jakarta against the police action

Indonesian police have released two of the country's top anti-corruption officials from jail.

They were detained by police last week on suspicion of involvement in a bribery case. They deny the charges.

Critics say the arrests are an attempt by the police to undermine Indonesia's powerful anti-corruption commission.

The case has generated widespread criticism of the Indonesian police, with hundreds of people protesting this week against their actions.

Indonesia is often ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, but the anti-corruption commission has made efforts to try to clean up that image.

Resignation calls

The two anti-corruption officials had submitted tapes of conversations as part of their defence.

Thousands of Indonesians sat glued to their TV sets in their offices and homes as news channels broadcast four hours of the taped conversations, allegedly between a businessman and several people thought to be in Indonesia's police force and the attorney general's office - two of the most powerful forces in the country.

Discussions on the tapes revealed the speakers had plans to weaken Indonesia's anti-corruption commission significantly.

Police arrested the pair last week and say they are suspected in a bribery case and must be investigated.

The case of Bibit and Chandra - as it has been dubbed by the local press - has angered many in Indonesia.

Hundreds protested on the streets of Jakarta on Monday against the police actions, calling for the resignation of the police chief.

Indonesia's anti-corruption commission has made many enemies because it has been so successful in investigating and charging corrupt officials, including those in the police force.

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is under pressure to come up with a solution to this growing problem.

One of his promises during his campaign for re-election earlier this year was to clamp down on corruption.

How this case is handled will be seen as a test of his commitment.

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Thaksin assets case to start in mid-July

The senior court also rejected a defence argument for an oral presentation of the opening statement, although it agreed to authorise the defence to gather and file additional evidence as deemed necessary.

The ruling against the oral statement was seen to pre-empt any attempt at theatrics. The high court allowed the opening statements for the defence and the prosecution to be submitted in written form.

In an earlier decision, the defence request for Thaksin to give his statement via video was also rejected. But his arguments will be accepted in writing.

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DSI believe Thai stock market attacked with coordinated efforts

An ongoing investigation by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has suggested that there were coordinated efforts to attack Thai stock market with inauspicious rumours.

When the rumours first spread in mid-October, Thai stock index plunged badly.

"The efforts involve persons, juristic persons, local news agencies and foreign news agencies," DSI director general Tharit Pengdit said Monday.

The Nation

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Democrats to up their efforts in the far South

The Democrat Party has instructed its MPs to visit their constituents and work harder to ensure they still have their support ahead of the Opposition in the deep South.

Pheu Thai Party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh tried on Monday to win the hearts of locals while on a tour to push his idea to make the three southern provinces a special autonomous administrative zone, which he called "Nakhon Rat Pattani".

Thepthai Senpong, spokesman of the Democrat Party leader, gave a press conference after the party called MPs from five southern provinces to consider Pheu Thai's latest move. The meeting agreed they could easily lose support of people in the far South because it was a sensitive spot in which locals' allegiance swayed with political sentiment.

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Fighting off the bear One year after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, these readers are repairing their portfolios. Here's what they're d

Buying battered financials

I started adding bank and insurance stocks to my portfolio in the middle of November 2008 and bought through the end of March. I bought Royal Bank of Scotland, Genworth Financial, GE, Hartford, Lincoln National, Deutsche Bank, State Street, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Berkshire Hathaway.

I wasn't sure if all the companies would make it out of the crisis but I felt many were victims of panic selling. Although they had short-term balance sheet issues, their business was fundamentally solid enough to recover and build long term shareholder value.

By early March, my portfolio had lost almost 40%. I had friends tell me they were liquidating their stocks because they believed we were in for the next Great Depression. But I fought my urge to panic and decided to see it as a great opportunity.

I held onto the stocks I already had and used the 15% of my portfolio that was in cash to buy more. I'm so glad I did. One year after Lehman Brothers, my portfolio is down less than 15%.

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Singer Monica 'Still Standing' after overcoming tragedies

"I think this is her moment," Monica's cousin and longtime manager says of the singer, above.

(CNN) -- At first, R&B singer Monica wanted no part of reality television.

"I assumed [producers] would not want a reality show about my life as it really is, because my life is drama-free now," said the Grammy Award-winning artist. "If they wanted drama, they would have had to have caught me 10 years ago."

The singer, whose full name is Monica Denise Arnold, has overcome some terrible experiences.

She witnessed the suicide of a despondent boyfriend and was involved with rapper C-Murder (whose real name is Corey Miller and who is the brother of rapper Master P) when he was arrested for the shooting death of a fan.

But those times are now behind the mother of two young sons. She's happily settled in a committed relationship with her children's father, rapper Rocko, and currently starring in the BET show "Monica: Still Standing." A new album is set to be released in the new year.

While she's had success with singles like "Don't Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)," "Angel of Mine" and her duet, "The Boy Is Mine," with singer Brandy, the 29-year-old is looking to break through to superstar status.

"I think this is her moment," said her cousin and longtime manager, Melinda Dancil. "People have seen 'the artist Monica,' but they have never really seen 'the person Monica,' and the person Monica is really what creates her engaging personality."

The singer is quick to point out that "I'm not a victim, I'm a victor," and said she wants her legacy to extend beyond just her reputation as a singer, songwriter and occasional actress.

She spoke to CNN about her career, why you won't see her in a catfight with another female singer and what makes her emotional.

CNN: What do you hope fans take away from your new reality show?

Monica: My main objective is to show some form of strength.

I think people experience a lot, especially in this day and age, and especially young people, and people don't normally speak directly to them.

I think they will take the idea of strength, the idea of faith and the idea of family away from it. The latter two are things that people don't like to talk a lot about or deal a lot with, in my experience.

CNN: At what point are you in your career?

Monica: I'm at the point in my career where it's time for me to start defining who I am as an artist.

I would love for people to look at me as a great singer, but also know exactly who I am, the way that we have loved and respected people like Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle having gone through the different stages of their lives with them. That's the type of history I want to have.

This is the defining moment where I separate myself from others by whatever it is I do and the way that I do it.

CNN: There was a moment at the 2009 BET Awards where you and Keyshia Cole performed [the duet "Trust"]. You came out singing, and the camera went to Beyonce in the front row where she was grooving.

What is it like to perform for your peers, some of whom may not have been in the business as long as you have, but who may have greater recognition?

Monica: You know, I don't think about it a lot. I look at it like this: They work hard, so I know they want to see great entertainment as well. Any time I perform in front of my peers, I think about it that way.

I think about it the same way I do as when I am out on stage in front of a lot of people I don't know. You give 120 percent, make sure you do your absolute best and try to make sure each performance is memorable.

CNN: What don't your fans know about you?

Monica: I talk a lot about strength, faith and love, but I don't ever talk about the fact that I am one of the most sensitive people in my family.

That might be the most shocking, because you always see me fighting the good fight, with the strong face on, but I am the most emotional.

CNN: What makes you emotional?

Monica: (Chuckles) Anything. I don't like to see children hurt or in need. I don't like to see people troubled or without, I don't like to see death.

Some things make me emotional in a good way. When my son does well in school, I get real emotional because that's a testament to what I'm feeding him at home on a daily basis as far as knowledge goes.

I wasn't so emotional until I had my first son.

CNN: You gave up your teenage years to your career. Any regrets?

Monica: None. I still love it.

I always tell people that the music industry may be frustrating sometimes, but the singing never gets old. It's something I grew up doing, and I take the bitter with the sweet.

CNN: What's frustrating to you about the industry?

Monica: It's frustrating to me to see how much they force people to compete. It's not a competition. What is for me is for me, what's for you is for you.

You can't constantly make these artists feel like they can't like each other or enjoy each other or do songs together because one is from this place and the other is from another. I think it's foolish.

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U.S. diplomats land in Myanmar for meetings

A Myanmar activist holds a portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest in Bangkok on August 16, 2009.

(CNN) -- Two U.S. diplomats arrived in Myanmar Tuesday and will meet with imprisoned pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and deputy Scot Marciel plan to meet with Suu Kyi Wednesday, a spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar said.

The visit is part of a new shift in U.S. policy toward Myanmar.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in September that the United States will try to directly engage with the military leaders of Myanmar, also known as Burma, without abandoning its existing sanctions on the southeast Asian country.

Suu Kyi's detention has been a key component in America's political tangle with Myanmar. Critics of the country's ruling junta have accused the regime of convicting Suu Kyi, 64, to keep her from participating in 2010 elections.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has been confined in her house for about 14 of the past 20 years. She was sentenced to 18 more months of house arrest after John Yettaw, an American man, swam uninvited to her home in Yangon where she has been confined.

Suu Kyi has accepted the new shift in U.S. policy toward Myanmar, her spokesman said.

It was unclear if the two diplomats would meet with members of Myanmar's military junta.

In August, U.S. Senator Jim Webb became the first American official to meet withe Myanmar's junta leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, when he went there to secure Yettaw's release.

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Stunned Wilson High students grieve for slain [Cambodian-American] classmate

Odell Smith, 16, covers his face and grieves with fellow Woodrow Wilson High students at the spot where Melody Ross was shot and killed. "I just saw her moments before she was shot...she was smiling," said Smith. (Barbara Davidson/Los Angeles Times / November 2, 2009)
Melody Ross, a pole vaulter, was well-liked and had a positive attitude, friends say. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times / October 31, 2009)

Friday night's shooting jolts parents who consider campus to be the safest school in Long Beach.
Mourning students at Long Beach's Wilson High School gathered Monday by the pavement where classmate Melody Ross was shot after the homecoming football game. Leaving handwritten notes to Melody and her family, the teenagers lit candles and shed tears as they remembered the bubbly 16-year-old.

"Why her?" asked sophomore Micah Mathis, 15, who took French with Melody, an honors student. "That's what I want to know."

The mood at the coastal campus was somber as students, teachers and administrators struggled to comprehend what occurred Friday, when someone fired into a crowd of students leaving the game, striking three people, including Melody, who was fatally wounded.

Police patrol cars circled the school. The principal's voice cracked as she addressed students. Grief counselors met with a steady stream of teenagers, who wore black shirts in Melody's honor and released balloons during a lunchtime ceremony attended by her parents.

"It's a large high school, but it's like a family and it feels like we've lost one of our own," said Chris Eftychiou, spokesman for the Long Beach Unified School District. "The students are very resilient and they are helping each other get through this difficult time."

Wilson has 4,300 students, and is racially and economically diverse. The school serves some of the city's most affluent communities, yet half the students receive free or reduced-price lunches, a measure of poverty. Many parents consider Wilson, an early adopter of school uniforms, the safest high school in the city.

Tamura Howard of Signal Hill said her 14-year-old daughter previously attended a Christian school and that she believed Wilson is safe.

"That's why I put her in this school, it has a reputation for being safe and it's in a relatively good neighborhood," said Howard, noting that her daughter attended Friday's game. "This has given me nightmares."

The week had been a boisterous one on Wilson's campus, with pep rallies leading up to the game, and a dance. Students were hoping for an unlikely drubbing of crosstown rival Polytechnic High School, one of the nation's strongest high school football teams.

"Everyone was so, so excited," said senior Daisha Black, 17. "Everyone kept saying, 'Isn't it a good day to be a Bruin?' "

But minutes after the game, shots were fired on Ximeno Avenue just south of 10th Street, striking Ross and two others who are expected to survive.

Although there were hundreds of people leaving the campus, police have no witnesses or suspects. Anyone with information is asked to call the homicide detail at (562) 570-7244.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote today to offer a $10,000 reward.

Meanwhile, rumors swirled across campus about who shot Melody.

"People don't want to talk, they don't want to open their mouths," said Black, who was a few feet from Melody when the shooting occurred, and whose boyfriend comforted her while awaiting paramedics.

Students learned about the death Saturday morning through text messages and the Internet.

Madison Guest, 16, didn't believe the rumors until a friend asked her to bring flowers to track practice Saturday. She was on the team with Melody, and recalled hearing her boisterous cheers on the track.

"She was always happy and always supported me in my running," the junior said. "I'm still in shock. I just tried to go on with my day -- that's what she would have wanted."

Melody's parents were sequestered in their North Long Beach home Monday afternoon. The family fled the Khmer Rouge and the killing fields of Cambodia to move to Long Beach before Melody was born.

One month ago, tired of the violence in their last neighborhood, near Anaheim Street, the center of Long Beach's large Cambodian community, the family moved to North Long Beach.

The district's superintendent set up a fund to help the family with funeral costs and other needs

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Russian, Cambodian ships collide in Black Sea

SOFIA, November 2 (Itar-Tass) -- The Russian ship Nikolai Psomiadi and the ship Dolian flying the Cambodian flag, collided in neutral waters of the Black Sea off Bulgaria on Monday.

According to the Marine Rescue and Coordination Centre in Varna, the incident occurred outside Bulgaria’s 12-mile territorial zone during a storm. The captains of both ships rejected the offers of help.

The press service of the ministry of transport, communications and information technologies said the Bulgarian Navy has been notified of the incident. A helicopter is ready to fly to the scene of the incident, if need be.

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Tweeting from Fugitiveland

Monday, November 2, 2009

Thailand's ex-premier is on the run. And he wants the Twitterati to know about it.
BANGKOK, Thailand – To hear the Thailand’s ruling government tell it, Thaksin Shinawatra is the kingdom’s most meddlesome fugitive.

Since fleeing Thailand last year, the self-exiled, billionaire ex-premier has zig-zagged the globe while stirring anti-establishment supporters from afar. He has incessantly needled the ruling party through in-country proxies, sarcastic Tweet messages and Skype video calls, broadcast at political pep rallies that sometimes turn violent.

His sanctuaries have included Hong Kong, London, Liberia and Dubai. Each new hideout spurs new extradition threats from the government. But if Thaksin pulls off a recent promise to visit Cambodia — right in Thailand’s backyard — the government’s repeated promises to catch him may begin to appear hollow.

Many experts already suspect authorities prefer Thaksin as a fugitive rather than a prisoner.

“The best way to diminish Thaksin’s popularity is not to make him a martyr, but rather to allow him to make a fool of himself via Skype as often as he wishes,” said Federico Ferrara, assistant political science professor at the National University of Singapore.

Imprisoning Thaksin, he said, would be “highly destabilizing,” sparking huge rallies and endless requests for release.

Thaksin has repeatedly promised supporters he’ll someday come home to Thailand. This week, the Thai government was rankled by his plans to visit the neighborhood.

At an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit this week, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen went on the offense for Thaksin and publicly offered to build him a Cambodian home.

Moreover, he pondered hiring him as a political advisor and even compared him to Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and political prisoner in Burma. Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup after five years of rule, is also a “victim” of politics, Hun Sen said.

These slights were widely interpreted as payback for an ongoing Thai-Cambodia land ownership dispute that has riled fierce nationalism on both sides and occasionally turned bloody. Bitterness between the countries runs even deeper, dating back to alleged Thai government sympathies to communist Khmer Rogue leaders who led mass killings in Cambodia during the 1980s.

“I don’t want (Hun Sen) to be a victim or a pawn for somebody that undermines the interests of this country,” said Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva at a press conference. “I’m sure that when he’s better informed, he’ll change his mind.”

But Thaksin now insists he’s Cambodia-bound. He even Tweeted his thanks to Hun Sen, who has assured the ex-premier that Cambodia will disregard extradition requests.

Actually extraditing and jailing Thaksin would surely enrage his supporters, a largely rural, working-class faction known as the “red shirts.” Many of them believe Thaksin was the first Thai politician to challenge old-money elites and fight on their behalf.

The powers behind the coup that toppled Thaksin in 2006, however, insist he is incorrigibly corrupt. Last year, courts sentenced him to two years in prison for using political power to secure a Bangkok land deal for his wife.

By keeping Thaksin on the run, he remains a “fugitive” that “helps the government portray the ‘red shirts’ as illegitimate by association,” said political professor Kevin Hewison, director of the Carolina Asia Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The government appears to crank up its Thaksin hunt each time his supporters become active, Hewison said.

Imprisoning Thaksin, he said, would just stir even more problems for the government. “He'd likely become an imprisoned symbol for opposition,” Hewison said. “Do they want that? No. He is less of a threat, and a declining star for the red shirt supporters, if he is at a distance.”

Authorities likely set the stage for Thaksin’s escape themselves, Ferrara said, by allowing the ex-premier to attend the 2008 Olympic Games opening ceremony in Beijing. Thaksin was then on trial for fraud and a guilty verdict was widely assumed. Judges granted him leave, Ferrara said, expecting him to flee.

He has acquired up to six passports – secured from countries including Montenegro and Nicaragua, his political backers said – to traverse the globe and evade capture. Keeping up the appearance of a vigorous chase has helped the Thai government cement Thaksin’s “fugitive” image, Ferrara said.

“Thaksin can only be discredited as a ‘fugitive’ if someone is actually pursuing him,” he said.

“Otherwise he would be merely an ‘exiled politician,’ something that has a much more favorable connotation because it hints at the possibility that the government might either not have the goods on Thaksin or the stomach to lock him up.”

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In Cambodia, a Cry for Small-Scale Subsidies

A $20 solar-powered lamp could benefit millions of rural Cambodian residents, but most still can’t afford it. Subsidies, its makers say, are sorely needed. (Kamworks)

Generous subsidies for businesses and tax incentives for consumers are needed if developing countries like Cambodia are to promote renewable energy alternatives — particularly in rural areas — a conference in Phnom Penh on green energy was told last week.

At the moment, conference participants complained, such incentives are sorely lacking.

“Cambodian investors have low investment capital,” said Rin Seyha, the managing director of SME Renewable Energy, a Cambodian-based renewable energy investment firm. Unlike neighboring Vietnam, there is very little in the way of tax incentives and subsidies on loans for renewable energy companies, he said.

Jeroen Verschelling, the director of Kamworks, a Cambodian-based solar energy company, said consumers who wish to use more environmentally friendly energy sources are often forced to ask for assistance from microfinance institutions that tend to provide loans with extremely high interest rates.

Mr Verschelling complained that large scale coal plant and hydropower projects are able to easily secure financing. For smaller, renewable projects, “it is much harder to do that,” he said.

According to the environmental group Geres, 80 percent of Cambodia’s energy consumption comes from biomass, mostly from burning timber. The United Nations Development Program estimates that just 20 percent of the population has access to the national power grid.

Small, renewable energy developers say this means most energy-sector financing is directed at projects that benefit only a fifth of Cambodia’s residents.

Kamworks has recently launched a basic solar powered light for people in rural areas. The lamp, which retails for about $20, needs direct sunlight during the day and at night runs for about 12 hours on its lowest setting, or about three hours on its highest.

“To pay $20 at once is a huge amount for local people,” said Patrick Kooijman, the marketing director for Kamworks, who added that the lamps really ought to be given away for free. “I think that the private sector getting involved in things like this is the only way it really can work in the long term.”

Meanwhile, Margaret Ryan, an energy consultant for Khmer Solar, which specializes in solar power installation, said that despite government efforts to slash import tariffs on equipment used for renewable energy sources — tariff rates on imports have been reduced form 35 percent to seven percent on items such as solar panels and battery chargers and have been altogether eliminated for items such as wind and hydraulic turbines — the Cambodian consumer is generally unable to afford the costs of installing solar panels.

“Even if labor is very inexpensive, it is still costly,” she said. “Any expense is too much expense.”

In order to reduce prices, Khmer solar is encouraging Cambodians to install the equipment themselves by disseminating simple installation leaflets and employing operators who can troubleshoot for clients with technical issues.

But these efforts are merely a drop in the pond when trying to make any major inroad into Cambodia’s energy sector.

“The next obstacle to overcome will be a workable plan for a subsidy,” Ms. Ryan said. “It would be wonderful if the government subsidizes the poorest to get solar systems. But I doubt it will happen.”

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[Thai] PM Vows Peaceful Solutions to Disputes with Cambodia

Meanwhile, the Patriotic Thais Club today submitted a letter to the prime minister at Parliament, urging the government to launch serious measures against and stop giving any aid to Cambodia.

The group then lodged a petition with the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok, demanding that the Cambodian government issue an apology and withdraw troops from the Preah Vihear Temple within three days.
The prime minister vows to peacefully settle conflicts with Cambodia, particularly concerning the recent controversial statement by the Cambodian prime minister.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva stressed that the government will make efforts to settle any conflicts with Cambodia in a peaceful manner, keeping in mind the nation's territorial rights.

Abhisit's explanation came in response to the question by appointed senator Kamnoon Sittisaman during today's Senate meeting.

The prime minister said Deputy Prime Minister in charge of national security Suthep Thaugsuban has clarified various issues, particularly inaccurate information, with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian ambassador to Bangkok.

Abhisit expressed belief that the conflicts between Thailand and Cambodia would not get out of hand.

The prime minister went on to say that in the parliamentary meeting next week, the government will review the minute of the meeting of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission on land border demarcation.

He noted that the minute will be considered according to procedure as stipulated by Section 190 of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, Abhisit said he does not oppose setting up a joint parliamentary committee to handle the review as proposed by Kamnoon.

Regarding the demarcation of the Thai-Cambodian border, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said the Thai government is trying to hold bilateral talks with Cambodia.

He added that he does not object to requests by archaeologists to join inspection trips across the border.

Kasit revealed that, so far, the government has been able to plant 48 out of 73 markers to demarcate the border.

Meanwhile, the Patriotic Thais Club today submitted a letter to the prime minister at Parliament, urging the government to launch serious measures against and stop giving any aid to Cambodia.

The group then lodged a petition with the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok, demanding that the Cambodian government issue an apology and withdraw troops from the Preah Vihear Temple within three days.

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