Cambodian court convicts Thai man of spying in Thaksin case

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dec 8, 2009

Phnom Penh - A Thai national was convicted of espionage by a Cambodian court Tuesday and sentenced to seven years in jail in a case linked to the controversial November visit to Cambodia by Thailand's former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Siwarak Chothipong, 31, was arrested in mid-November after the authorities accused him of passing on Thaksin's flight details to a diplomat at the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh. At the time Siwarak was employed by the company that handles Cambodia's air traffic, Cambodian Air Traffic Services (CATS).

Municipal court prosecutor Sok Roeun told the German Press Agency dpa that Siwarak was also fined 10 million riel (2,500 dollars) in addition to his jail term.

A spokesman for the Cambodian Foreign Affairs Ministry said the sentencing was a matter for the court.

'And right now we have not had any news from Thailand [about the ruling],' said spokesman Koy Kuong.

Siwarak's arrest came during the surprise visit to Cambodia by Thaksin, who was appointed as an economic adviser to the Cambodian government and a personal adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The news of those appointments riled Bangkok, and relations between the two nations plunged to their lowest point in years.

Thaksin has an outstanding jail term against him in Thailand, but Cambodia rejected an extradition request filed by Bangkok during his visit.

In the diplomatic row surrounding the former Thai premier's visit, both nations recalled their ambassadors and expelled senior embassy staff. Neither ambassador has yet returned to their post.
READ MORE - Cambodian court convicts Thai man of spying in Thaksin case

Thai gov't to help man sentenced to jail in Cambodia: Senior official

BANGKOK, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- The Thai government will attempt to help the Thai engineer, who was found guilty of spying and sentenced to seven years in jail in Cambodia, Chavanon Intharakomalsut, the secretary to Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said Tuesday.

Chavanon's statement was made after the Phnom Penh Municipal Court ruled against Thai engineer Siwarak Chutipong, Thai News Agency reported.

The next step in bid to help Siwarak will depend on a decision to be made by Siwarak's mother, Mrs. Simarak Na Nakhon Phanom, Chavanon said.

His mother can either make an appeal or seek a royal pardon for Siwarak, while the Thai government will be willing to help, Chavanon said.

Siwarak, who worked as the engineer at Cambodia Air Traffic Services Co Ltd, has been arrested in Cambodia from Nov. 11, according to an arrest warrant of prosecutor of Phnom Penh Municipality Court.

Cambodia had charged Siwarak of having had confidential information affecting Cambodia's national security.
READ MORE - Thai gov't to help man sentenced to jail in Cambodia: Senior official

Spy cases raises tension between Cambodia, Thailand

Tuesday Dec. 8, 2009
The Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — A Thai man was ordered to serve seven years in prison for spying on Thailand's former prime minister while he was in Cambodia as a guest of the government, a case that threatens to worsen a diplomatic feud between the two neighbours.

The trial in the capital of Phnom Penh follows Cambodia's decision last month to name former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra its special economic adviser. The appointment and Thaksin's subsequent visit to Cambodia angered the government in Bangkok and resulted in a recall of ambassadors from both sides.

Thai national Siwarak Chothipong, an employee of the Cambodia Air Traffic Service, which manages flights in the country, was accused of stealing Thaksin's flight schedule before his Nov. 10 arrival and sending it to the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh. Thaksin stayed five days, getting red-carpet treatment as he talked to Cambodian economists.

Siwarak, 31, was arrested Nov. 12 and charged with stealing information that could impact national security.

Municipal Court Judge Ke Sakhan ruled that Thaksin's flight information was confidential and sharing it was a breach of security protocol for dignitaries.

"Thaksin is an adviser to Cambodia's government and Cambodia has the obligation to provide him security," the judge said. He ordered Siwarak to pay a 10 million riel (US$2,500) fine and serve seven years in prison, the lowest possible for the spying charge, which carries a penalty of seven to 15 years behind bars.

Siwarak acknowledged earlier in court that he saw the flight schedule and passed the details on to Thai embassy First Secretary Kamrob Palawatwichai who was later expelled from the country. But he denied stealing the document.

"I took a look at the flight schedule and made a phone call to Kamrob about the flight schedule," Siwarak told the court. "But I didn't get a copy of the flight schedule and hand it over to anyone."

Two other employees from the Cambodia Air Traffic Service testified that Siwarak asked them about the flight schedule.

Thaksin went into self-imposed exile last year before a Thai court found him guilty of violating a conflict of interest law and sentenced him to two years in prison. He had served as prime minister from 2001 to 2006, when he was ousted in a military coup after being accused of corruption and showing disrespect to the monarchy.

Thaksin's supporters and opponents have repeatedly taken to the streets since then to spar over who has the right to rule the country, sometimes sparking violence.

Thaksin's visit to Cambodia led to allegations he was trying to ignite a new political crisis from across the border.

Critics, including Thailand's government, have portrayed Thaksin as a traitor for accepting the Cambodian appointment and have lambasted Cambodia for hosting him while he is a fugitive. Relations have already been roiled by several deadly skirmishes over the past year and a half over land surrounding the ancient Preah Vihear temple.
READ MORE - Spy cases raises tension between Cambodia, Thailand

CAMBODIA: Pepper Farmers Get Ready for their Champagne Moment

A woman dries Kampot peppercorns in the sun near Kampong Trach town, Kampot province, southern Cambodia. (Credit:Robert Carmichael/IPS)

By Robert Carmichael

PHNOM PENH, Dec 8 (IPS) - Under a shady trellis of rice sacks in the province of Kampot in southern Cambodia, 42-year-old Nuon Yan tends his crop of pepper vines.

Small-scale farming is a tough occupation, with prices and weather unpredictable and the cost of inputs high. But Nuon Yan knows a good idea when he sees one. When he heard about an opportunity to double the money he was making from black pepper, he jumped at it.

That opportunity is to register the prized variety of pepper that he and neighbouring farmers grow – known as Kampot Pepper – for Geographical Indicator, or GI, status. Kampot pepper is highly regarded by some chefs in Europe and the United States as one of the world’s finest pepper varieties.

If the term GI sounds unfamiliar, the concept itself is much better understood, says Jean-Marie Brun, an advisor at GRET, a French non- governmental organisation involved in getting Kampot pepper its GI status.

The most famous GI product is champagne. In fact, says Brun, GI is what makes champagne champagne rather than sparkling wine. Unless bubbly is grown in a specific part of France to specific rules and meets a certain quality standard, it may not be marketed as champagne.

That, in a nutshell, is GI, and it will work exactly the same way with Kampot pepper. The added advantage is that Nuon Yan and the 130 other members of the newly formed Kampot Pepper Producers’ Association (KPPA) – most of whom are also farmers – decide on the rules and the quality standard.

Brun says any grower who meets the requirements can join the association, and once GI is registered it is protected under World Trade Organisation rules.

"The right to use the name Kampot pepper once it is registered belongs to anybody that complies with a certain number of requirements," says Brun. "The stakeholders decide on the delimitation of the area, how it should be produced and the quality criteria."

Brun explains that farmers like Nuon Yan, who currently earns 2.50 U.S. dollars per kilo for his crop, will likely double their income when GI status is confirmed.

Complying with GI does bring added costs, but Brun says these typically equate to five percent of the extra income. In the case of Kampot pepper, and because it is early days for the KPPA, the costs of compliance are higher than that – currently around 10 percent – but they will decline as more members join.

Farmers like Nuon Yan benefit as a direct result of providing a product that consumers can buy safe in the knowledge that it has attained a certain quality standard and is what it claims to be. But that assurance is worth nothing unless someone ensures the members abide by their own standards.

That policing role is performed by the KPPA itself and an independent auditor. The KPPA is based in a small room in a shady grove five kilometres outside the provincial town of Kampong Trach in Kampot province. KPPA deputy head, En Trou, explains that growers have had a tough time in the past.

"Because they were not able to market Kampot pepper and didn’t have much money, the farmers faced many problems trying to earn enough to support their families," he says. "We also found that other growers were using the name Kampot pepper on their products."

But the advent of GI status, which will be confirmed in a matter of weeks, should start to resolve that. En Trou is confident that the future will be brighter for the association’s members, who currently harvest 14 tons of pepper annually.

"I am hopeful that in another five years we will have increased the number of producers to 150, and be selling between 20 and 30 tons a year," he says.

The man in charge on the government side is Var Roth San, who heads the intellectual property department at the Ministry of Commerce. Among the powers wielded by his department is the power to revoke the GI registration for Kampot pepper should the independent auditor find the KPPA is shirking its role to maintain standards.

"The association must form control within themselves to keep the quality good," he points out. "Therefore the price of GI products increases. If [there is] no control within themselves or by an international organisation, who will believe [that their product is high quality]?"

Var Roth San says getting GI status for Kampot pepper links directly with the strategy of government and donors to reduce widespread rural poverty. Around 80 percent of the country’s people live in rural areas, and more than half the eight million-strong labour force is involved in agriculture, so boosting rural livelihoods is critical for Cambodia.

"We want to create jobs, and we want our poor to get more money from their work in the rural area," he says. "GI law is one thing that will help the poor in the rural areas."

Although GI for Kampot pepper will benefit at most a couple of hundred farmers, the government plans to roll out the initiative for other products too, including palm sugar from Kampong Speu province and honey from the northeastern province of Ratanakkiri. But Kampot pepper will be the first.

Back on his one-fifth hectare pepper plot in Kampot province, Nuon Yan explains that his rice crop has to date generated more income than the pepper he harvests from his 300 pepper vines. Last year he made around 400 U.S dollars from selling 150 kilograms of pepper.

But he is clearly banking on Kampot pepper’s potential.

"If I can sell my pepper for a higher price, then it is possible that one day I could earn more from pepper than from rice," he says.

Nuon Yan has an eye on that future possibility. He will deposit some of the extra money he will earn in the bank and put the rest towards buying more pepper vines. He and the other members of the association are banking that Kampot pepper’s GI status will result in a more secure future for them and their families.
READ MORE - CAMBODIA: Pepper Farmers Get Ready for their Champagne Moment

China says investigating Uighur asylum case

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it was investigating an apparent asylum request lodged with the the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees by a group of Uighurs in Cambodia.

Two of the 22 Uighurs who sought asylum through the UNHCR offices in Phnom Penh say they witnessed security forces killing and beating Uighur demonstrators in the far western Chinese city of Urumqi on July 5, the Uighur American Association said.

On that day, demonstrations in Urumqi by Uighurs protesting against fatal attacks on Uighur workers in South China turned into a violent rampage in which 197 people died, mostly Han Chinese. Han Chinese crowds launched revenge attacks against Uighur neighbourhoods two days later.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said officials were investigating reports of the asylum claims.

"Related departments are at present looking into the situation," she told a regular news briefing in Beijing.

"We have a good cooperative relationship with Cambodia on every level," Jiang added. "We hope the international community can enhance cooperation in the fight against terrorism."

China often accuses militants of formenting ethnic unrest in Xinjiang, though Beijing has provided no evidence so far that the 22 Uighurs in Cambodia are connected with such groups.

The UNHCR in Phnom Penh declined comment.

But a foreign human rights activist, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters the group would submit asylum applications to both the Cambodian government and the UNHCR.

Uighurs are a Muslim, Turkic speaking ethnic group native to Xinjiang, many of whom chafe under Chinese rule.
Refugees who flee China face a dangerous crossing over the often mountainous and bleak border, and risk repatriation while still in neighbouring countries.

In October, an ethnic Mongolian school principal, Batzangaa, was abruptly brought back to China by Chinese police while he and his family were appealing the UNHCR's initial rejection of their refugee application in Ulan Bator. He is still in detention.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Ek Madra in Phnom Penh; Editing by Ron Popeski)
READ MORE - China says investigating Uighur asylum case

Kapur shoots 67, moves to tied second at Cambodian Open Read more:

Friday, November 20, 2009

Siem Reap (Cambodia), Nov 20 (IANS) Indian golfer Shiv Kapur in his bid to retain his Asian Tour card put himself in a position to end his four-year title drought with a five-under 67 that put him shared second place at the midway stage of the Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open here Friday.
Kapur was seven-under 137 for 36 holes and two behind Welshman Craig Smith, who is looking for his maiden Asian Tour win. Smith, one of the tallest professionals on any international Tour at six-foot-eight opened up a two-stroke halfway advantage after firing a sizzling six-under-par 66 for a two-day total of nine-under-par 135 at the $300,000 full field Asian Tour event.

The other three Indians also made the cut. Vikrant Chopra, the best Indian after the first round, added a 71 to his first 69 to be tied 13th at four-under 140. Anirban Lahiri after two birdies in first three holes tapered off and finished with a 71 that put him in tied 15th place at three-under 141. Rahil Gangjee shot an even par 72 to be two-under 142 in tied 23rd place.

Kapur, currently in 69th position on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, charged into contention with a superb 67. He made the turn in 35 before adding a birdie on the 10th hole and then closed strongly with three consecutive birdies, including a 20-footer at his last.

“All in all, it was a frustrating day because I hit it close to the flag but couldn’t buy a putt. The way I struck the ball I should be at least 12 or 13-under. Luckily for me, I ended with three birdies and that turned an average day into a good day,” said Kapur.

“The greens are pretty tough here but fair. My putting has let me down and if I can get my putter hot during the weekend I should have a good chance,” added Kapur, who is looking to add a second title to the Volvo Masters of Asia he won in his rookie year in 2005.

Kapur, Filipino Artemio Murakami and Thailand’s Annop Tangkamolprasert are two strokes behind at the Phokeethra Country Club.

Overnight leader David Gleeson of Australia, Malaysia’s Shaaban Hussain, Will Yanagisawa of the US and Pariya Junhasavasdikul of Thailand are among the players in tied fifth position, three behind the leader.

A total of 74 players made the cut which was set at two-over-par 146.

Read more:
READ MORE - Kapur shoots 67, moves to tied second at Cambodian Open Read more:

39th ASEAN bankers' council meeting held in Cambodia

Senior officials from ASEAN nations' national and private banks gathered here on Friday to attend the 39th ASEAN banking council meeting.

The annual bankers' meeting focused on how to speed up the process of the integration of ASEAN financial services by 2015, and discussed on the cooperation in finance, investment, education and ASEAN inter-regional relations.

"The close cooperation among ASEAN banks will certainly help to speed up the process of the integration of ASEAN financial services by 2015," Neav Chanthana, deputy governor of the Central National Bank of Cambodia, said in her keynote address at the two-day meeting.

"Due to increasing regional integration, the banking industry and banking supervisors share a number of convergent priorities," She stressed, adding that "I am rather optimistic that rational dialog based on responsible and knowledgeable positions, between people acting professionally, is always a source of progress in the banking industry to support economic growth," she added.

As a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Cambodia enjoyed double digit economic growth over the past decade. In 2009, however, Cambodia is severely hit by the global financial crisis through the real sector, namely garments, construction, and tourism which had been the driving forces of Cambodian economy.

Neav Chanthana said that national bank of Cambodia will carefully follow the international developments and consider implementation in a progressive manner and in line with domestic market developments and priorities.

Phung Kheav Se, chairman of Association of Banks in Cambodia, said at the meeting that "Our close association with the ASEAN organization and with its member countries has been of enormous benefit to Cambodia in many respects economic, social and political."

According to a report from Association of Banks in Cambodia, Cambodia has six specialized banks and commercial banks and 20 microfinance institutions as its members.

Founded in 1967, the ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asia Nations) groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Source: Xinhua
READ MORE - 39th ASEAN bankers' council meeting held in Cambodia

Thailand to request bail for Thai engineer detained in Cambodia

BANGKOK, Nov 20 (TNA) - Thailand will ask to post bail for the Thai engineer detained on spy charges in Cambodia within one or two days to free him on a temporary basis, according to the Thai Foreign Minister's Secretary Chawanon Intarakomalsut.

Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS) employee Siwarak Chutipong, 31, was arrested in Phnom Penh on spying charges last week when he was discovered releasing Thaksin Shinawatra’s flight schedule to a Thai embassy official in Phnom Penh.

Mr Chawanon said the Thai authorities had approached Kao Sopha, a Cambodian lawyer with experience in human rights protection, to be Siwarak's lawyer. Kao Sopha had met Mr Siwarak and is collecting information and evidence to write a request to provide bail for the engineer within one to two days to release him temporarily.

The representatives of Samart Corporation, CATS parent company, met Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya to give information which could be useful to support Thailand’s belief that Siwarak has done nothing illegal, he said.

CATS is wholly-owned by the Samart Corporation and received a concession from the Cambodian government to supply aeronautical radio and air traffic control services to Cambodia.

The Foreign Ministry legal experts were studying the two countries’ Investment Protection Agreement to find options to help Samart Corporation, he said, adding that Mr Kasit had affirmed that the ministry would extend full help as it did not want the problem to be escalated to affect other people and other Thai companies invested in Cambodia.

Thani Thongphakdi, deputy director-general of the Foreign Affairs Ministry's Department of Information, told reporters that the lawyer was preparing the document for seeking bail but the date to submit the request had not been set. However, it could be early next week, he said.

After submitting the request, Cambodia is expected to take 10 days to consider whether to allow the bail.

In a related development, Thai Defence Ministry spokesman Col Thanatip Sawangsaeng said Thailand would host the Thai-Cambodian General Border Committee (JBC) extraordinary session November 26-27 at Pattaya in the eastern province of Chonburi.

The Thai and Cambodian defence ministers would head their delegations to the meeting, he said.

It was expected that the meeting would discuss the border situation, and military cooperation, said the spokesman. (TNA)
READ MORE - Thailand to request bail for Thai engineer detained in Cambodia

Thai-Cambodia JBC meeting next week

* Published: 20/11/2009 at 04:04 PM
* Online news: Breakingnews

The Thai-Cambodia Joint Border Committee (JBC) will meet on Nov 27 at 28 at the Dusit Thani hotel in Pattaya, defence ministry spokesman Col Thanathip Saengsawang said on Friday.

“It will be a ministerial level defence meeting to discuss border security and military cooperation,” Col Thanathip said.

Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon would use his ties with Cambodian military leaders to help ease the current tension between the two countries.

The spokesman said that military relations between the two countries remain intact despite the diplomatic row between Bangkok and Phnom Penh.

The Defence Ministry hopes to help settle the dispute between the two governments and at the same time to strengthen ties and trust on both sides, Col Thanathip said.
READ MORE - Thai-Cambodia JBC meeting next week

Ecstasy factories destroyed in Cambodian rainforests

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 20, 2009 (Xinhua News Agency) -- Ten ecstasy laboratories operated by local drug cartels were destroyed Wednesday in one of Cambodia's most impenetrable and remote jungle areas in the country's southwest Cardamom Mountains, according to a statement released Friday by Wildlife Alliance.

The raid was carried out by an anti-drug task force led by Wildlife Alliance and in close cooperation with forest rangers from Cambodia's armed services and Ministry of Environment.

"At least 35 tons of safrole oil, a main ingredient used in the methamphetamine production of ecstasy, could have been used to make over five million ecstasy pills with a street value of over 100 million U.S. dollars," according to local officials.

Wildlife Alliance-sponsored ranger team from Cambodia's Ministry of Environment and managed by Fauna and Flora International, came across the ecstasy labs several months ago during a routine foot patrol through Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary, 200 miles northwest of Phnom Penh.

Wildlife Alliance Technical Advisor and former French Legionnaire, Eduard Lefter, who planned the complex and dangerous raid with Cambodian Forest Rangers, commented on the operation, saying "The mission was very difficult to organize and the conditions extremely tough. The mountain terrain and dense forest made a helicopter insertion virtually impossible, so we went in by foot."

According to Lefter, the team spent 12 days in the jungle battling leeches and the resulting wound infections, as well as skirting landmines which made forward progress extremely difficult. By the end of the mission much of Lefter's ranger teams were suffering from dehydration from dwindling water supplies.

The teams also carried explosive ordnance in the form of landmines, provided by the Cambodian Military, to destroy the ecstasy labs and safrole distillation equipment.

(Source: iStockAnalyst )
READ MORE - Ecstasy factories destroyed in Cambodian rainforests

Reunion of the "eternal friends" ... after their one night of separation

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) hugs fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra upon Thaksin's arrival for an interview at Hun Sen's residence in Kamdal province, near the outskirts of Phnom Penh November 11, 2009. Cambodia refused a request from Thailand on Wednesday to extradite Thaksin, in a widening diplomatic row that threatens to worsen Thailand's political crisis. Cambodia's Foreign Ministry handed over a statement refusing to extradite the billionaire, ousted in a 2006 coup and later sentenced to two years in prison for graft, just seconds after officials from the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh submitted the request. REUTERS/Stringer
Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) shakes hands with fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra at Hun Sen's residence in Kamdal province, near the outskirts of Phnom Penh November 11, 2009. Cambodia refused a request from Thailand on Wednesday to extradite Thaksin, in a widening diplomatic row that threatens to worsen Thailand's political crisis. Cambodia's Foreign Ministry handed over a statement refusing to extradite the billionaire, ousted in a 2006 coup and later sentenced to two years in prison for graft, just seconds after officials from the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh submitted the request. REUTERS/Stringer
Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) meets with fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra for an interview at Hun Sen's residence in Kamdal province, near the outskirts of Phnom Penh November 11, 2009. Cambodia refused a request from Thailand on Wednesday to extradite Thaksin, in a widening diplomatic row that threatens to worsen Thailand's political crisis. Cambodia's Foreign Ministry handed over a statement refusing to extradite the billionaire, ousted in a 2006 coup and later sentenced to two years in prison for graft, just seconds after officials from the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh submitted the request. REUTERS/Stringer
Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) sits beside fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra for an interview at Hun Sen's residence in Kamdal province, near the outskirts of Phnom Penh November 11, 2009. Cambodia refused a request from Thailand on Wednesday to extradite Thaksin, in a widening diplomatic row that threatens to worsen Thailand's political crisis. Cambodia's Foreign Ministry handed over a statement refusing to extradite the billionaire, ousted in a 2006 coup and later sentenced to two years in prison for graft, just seconds after officials from the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh submitted the request. REUTERS/Stringer
READ MORE - Reunion of the "eternal friends" ... after their one night of separation

King Father wants PM to look into VN border

Wednesday, November 11, 2009
By Meas Sokchea
The Phnom Penh Post

KING Father Norodom Sihanouk has written letters urging Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior officials to examine opposition party allegations that Vietnamese authorities are encroaching on Cambodian soil.

The letters follow Cambodian and Vietnamese officials' criticism of opposition leader Sam Rainsy for uprooting six markers along the countries' loosely defined border in October.

Sihanouk's letters urged officials to "consider" Sam Rainsy's allegations. On Saturday, the opposition leader wrote a letter to the King Father, saying that villagers along the border in Svay Rieng province's Chantrea district were losing valuable farmland to Vietnam.

Var Kimhong, the government's senior minister in charge of border affairs, declined comment, noting only that Sam Rainsy's letter mentions that villagers uprooted border posts - omitting his own involvement.
READ MORE - King Father wants PM to look into VN border

Abhisit, Hun Sen, Thaksin -- and what the three PMs shouldn't have done

Tuesday, November 10, 2009
By Atiya Achakulwisut
Bangkok Post

That you have three Prime Ministers interacting does not guarantee you will have a brilliant meeting of the minds. As events during the past few days regarding the Thai-Cambodian relations have suggested, you can have three Prime Minister materials and still end up with no wise man.

Since it is impossible to try to look into the future and predict how the diplomatic spat would culminate -- too many factors are involved and some of them are either fickle or unfathomable, such as the depth of the human mind -- I would rather look back to the recent past and do a quick review of what shouldn't have been done. Hopefully, the reexamination of the past deeds could point out to what should actually be done for the future.

I will start with the formation of the Abhisit government.

PM Abhisit should not have made a core member of anti-Thaksin People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) Kasit Piromya his foreign minister. His baggage, the tirade against PM Hun Sen and praise for the airports seizure, is simply unbearable.

Mr Kasit Piromya should have declined the appointment himself knowing where he is coming from and what he will have to face in future. He can still consider leaving now. He might be able to do more for his conviction if he would continue his tirade against PM Hun Sen outside of the bounds of his government duty. For now, his presence in the foreign ministry makes every diplomatic move dubious, suspicious of being laced with personal bias.

PM Hun Sen shouldn't have been so bent on unilaterally registering the Preah Vihear temple as the World Heritage site without a clear plan on how to develop the surrounding area. He should have realised that while the temple is decidedly the Cambodian property, there is no other solution to the area claimed by both sides except to jointly develop it as a common property, a natural park or peace monument under both countries' care.

The PAD shouldn't have been so hellbent on claiming ownership of the Preah Vihear area and fanning up extreme nationalism. They should have known that such a narrow-minded view of the issue would lead to nowhere and benefit no-one.

PM Hun Sen should not have meddled in the Thai internal politics by siding with former PM Thaksin. He could appoint the convicted ex PM as his advisor but shouldn't have gone so far as to offering shelter and rejecting the Thai government's attempt to extradite him. He shouldn't have told PM Abhisit to dissolve the House. Thai politics is not exactly his affair.

Thaksin shouldn't have accepted to be Mr Hun Sen's advisor. While there is nothing illegal about it, it is a matter of etiquette. He should have known better.

But as it is now obvious, the three PMs, former and current, do not seem to know better. That is why the peoples of both countries have to hold their breath and pray that a cooler head will prevail before the situation deteriorate further.
READ MORE - Abhisit, Hun Sen, Thaksin -- and what the three PMs shouldn't have done

Cambodia rejects Thai extradition request for ex-premier Thaksin

Wed, 11 Nov 2009

Phnom Penh - Cambodia on Wednesday formally rejected an extradition request from the Thai government for its fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. A spokesman for the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, Koy Koung, said the government's response had been handed directly to Thai embassy staff.

"This morning, the people from the Thai embassy submitted a note requesting the provisional arrest for the purposes of extradition of Mr Thaksin Shinawatra," he said. "The response note [states that] we reject the request."

Koy Koung confirmed that the rejection was given because Phnom Penh believes Thaksin's two-year jail sentence in Thailand was politically motivated, a categorization that allows it to reject the request under the terms of the two nations' extradition treaty.

Phnom Penh's rejection was expected, given its repeated statements to turn down an extradition request "under any circumstances."

Thaksin arrived in Phnom Penh Tuesday at the invitation of the Cambodian government. He was scheduled to deliver a lecture on economics Thursday to 300 public servants in the capital.

The presentation followed his dual appointments as an economic adviser to the Cambodian government and a personal adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The appointments led to the Thai government recalling its ambassador Thursday, a move Cambodia reciprocated the following day as relations between the two kingdoms reached their lowest point in years.

Koy Koung said Wednesday that it remained unclear how long Thaksin would stay in Cambodia.

Thaksin, who was prime minister from 2001 to 2006 before being toppled in a bloodless coup, faces a two-year jail sentence in Thailand for abuse of power. He has been living in self-imposed exile, mostly in Dubai, since August 2008.

Thaksin was overthrown after he lost the backing of Thailand's Bangkok-based middle class and political elite. He remains popular with the poor because of his populist economic policies.
READ MORE - Cambodia rejects Thai extradition request for ex-premier Thaksin

Cambodia's letter of refusal received

Bangkok Post

The Foreign Ministry has received a letter from Cambodia refusing Thailand's request to extradite deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Panich Wikitset, assistant to the foreign minister, said on Wednesday.

Mr Panich said the letter stressed that Cambodia cannot send Thaksin to Thailand because the former Thai prime minister was a political, not criminal, convict.

The government would hold a meeting to assess the development. At this stage, the Foreign Ministry would send a reply to Cambodia reaffirming that the court case in which Thaksin was sentenced to two years in jail was criminal, not political.

The verdict against Thaksin issued by the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions clearly states that Thaksin committed a criminal offence while holding the office of prime minister of Thailand, Mr Panich said.

Mr Panich said Thailand had not yet considered closing the border with Cambodia or taking other measures to pressure Cambodia.
READ MORE - Cambodia's letter of refusal received

Cambodia refuses Thai request to extradite Thaksin

Wed, 11 Nov 2009
Karen Percy, Bangkok and wires
ABC News Australia

Cambodian officials have handed over a formal letter to Thai diplomats in Phnom Pehn refusing to extradite fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Earlier, Thai diplomats handed over a formal letter to Cambodian officials seeking his extradition.

Mr Thaksin, was toppled three years ago in a coup and is living abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption.

He arrived in Cambodia on Tuesday to take up his new position as economic adviser and was welcomed by Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Hun Sen says Mr Thaksin's corruption conviction last year was political.

Mr Thaksin is expected to deliver an address to economists on Thursday in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia says Mr Thaksin cannot discuss politics while he's in the country.

Lese majeste charges

Earlier, opponents of Mr Thaksin levelled fresh lese majeste charges against him.

A group of Thai senators and other opponents have made another lese majeste complaint, saying Mr Thaksin insulted the royals when he called for reform in a British newspaper article published this week

The allegations of insulting the royal family come as Mr Thaksin is embroiled in the midst of a diplomatic spat between Thailand and Cambodia.

Mr Thaksin says he was misquoted and that he remains loyal to the royal family.

But he was critical of the Thai elites who form what he calls a "royal circle" of influence and are opposed to his populist style of government.
READ MORE - Cambodia refuses Thai request to extradite Thaksin

Thais demand Thaksin extradition

Wednesday, 11 November 2009
BBC News

Cambodia has received an extradition request from Thailand for former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Three Thai diplomats have given extradition papers to officials at Cambodia's foreign affairs ministry.

Cambodia has previously said it would reject any such request and a formal rejection is anticipated.

Mr Thaksin, sentenced in a conflict of interest case in Thailand, was offered a home and a job in neighbouring Cambodia, to Thai chagrin.

The BBC's South East Asia correspondent Rachel Harvey says the extradition request was widely expected, and is likely to further escalate a diplomatic row between the neighbours.

She says Mr Thaksin's presence just across the border is a source of profound irritation and potential concern for the current Thai government.

'Political' charge

Cambodia's expected rejection of the request is based on the view that charges levelled against Mr Thaksin in Thailand were politically motivated.

"Thaksin's conviction is caused by the coup in September 2006, when he was the prime minister of Thailand whom Thai people voted in with an overwhelming majority in accordance with democracy," Cambodia's foreign minister Hor Namhong has said.

In Bangkok, Thailand's foreign ministry said it was waiting for official confirmation from the embassy in Phnom Penh that Cambodia had denied its request.

"If it is true, we will consider the next measures to take," the ministry's deputy spokesman Thani Thongpakdi told AFP.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said the country may terminate its extradition treaty with Cambodia if Phnom Penh refuses to send Mr Thaksin home to face justice.

Brother enemy

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has expressed the region's concern at such an argument breaking out within the bounds of the supposedly fraternal Association of South East Asian Nations.

"Tension between Cambodia and Thailand is something that we're following extremely closely with a great deal of concern, to be honest, because it affects two fellow members of Asean, and we see the deterioration of relations to be in total disconnect with what ought to mark how Asean member countries ought to engage with one another.

"This spat, this division has to end, and we must return to the usual path which is friendship within Asean," Mr Natalegawa said.

Mr Thaksin arrived in Cambodia on Tuesday to take up a job as economic adviser to the government.

The move has deepened a diplomatic rift with Thailand, where Mr Thaksin faces a jail term for corruption if he returns.

Having already withdrawn its ambassador from Cambodia, the Thai cabinet has now agreed to scrap joint plans for trade and oil exploration.

Ties between Cambodia and Thailand have also been tense recently due to a series of disputes around a cross-border temple complex.

Mr Thaksin, a former telecoms billionaire, is in self-imposed exile and has spent much of his time in Dubai.

Thailand's government is outraged at the Cambodian move, and at Cambodia's apparent rejection of Thailand's judicial imperative to send Mr Thaksin to jail.

The Thai government and its supporters also fear that Mr Thaksin could use his new home just across the border as a campaign base.

Mr Abhisit's government was appointed after defections in parliament followed a period of military rule since the coup in 2006 which deposed Mr Thaksin.
READ MORE - Thais demand Thaksin extradition

Cambodia rejects extradition request

Bangkok Post

Cambodia has rejected Thailand's request that extradite former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, AFP reported on Wednesday.

The report said the Thai charge d'affaires to Phnom Penh this morning submitted the extradition request to Cambodia's Foreign Ministry, which immediately handed a letter rejecting the request to the Thai diplomat immediately.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told AFP before the two countries exchanged their letters that the letter from Cambodia turned down Thailand's request.

Kyodo also reported that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had reaffirmed Cambodia's action.

"I want to send a message that there will not an extradition of Thaksin," Hun Sen was quoted as saying to reporters.

The Cambodian prime minister said this after he met for nearly two hours with Thaksin at a reception home 13km South of Phnom Penh.
READ MORE - Cambodia rejects extradition request

Thailand seeks Thaksin extradition as row deepens

Wed Nov 11, 2009
By Martin Petty

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Thailand formally asked Cambodia on Wednesday to extradite fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a widening diplomatic row that threatens to worsen Thailand's political crisis.

Thailand's embassy in Phnom Penh submitted the request for the former telecommunications tycoon a day after he arrived in Cambodia to take up a job as economic adviser to the Cambodian government, a move that has infuriated the Thai authorities.

"Thaksin is a criminal fugitive and we asked the Cambodian government to send him back," Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban told reporters in Bangkok. "Now what we have to do is wait for their official response."

The diplomatic spat looks set to undermine any attempt by Southeast Asian leaders to project a united front in talks with U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday in Singapore, the first-ever meeting between a U.S. leader and all 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Thaksin, twice elected but deposed in a 2006 military coup and sentenced last year to two years in jail for graft, has been living in self-imposed exile, largely in Dubai. He arrived in Phnom Penh as a guest of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

His presence in the neighbouring country, where he intends to give a speech on Thursday, has fired up passions on both sides of Thailand's political divide while drawing attention to a border where Thai and Cambodian troops have clashed in the past year.

The row will embarrass the Thais in front of Obama. Thailand is this year's chair of ASEAN, and the regional grouping's meeting with Obama will be led by Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, whose coalition government is on shaky ground.


Thaksin plans to meet on Wednesday with Hun Sen, who has said he would never agree to extradition because he believes Thaksin's conviction was politically motivated, a comment Thai leaders say is tantamount to meddling in their domestic affairs.

"Thaksin wants to cause chaos at home and remind his supporters he's still alive," said Puangthong Pawakapan, a specialist on Thai-Cambodian relations at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

Thaksin is still immensely popular among Thailand's rural poor and his red-shirted supporters have staged frequent street rallies in Bangkok, calling for his pardon and return.

Abhisit's allies, the urban elite centred in Bangkok who wear the king's traditional colour of yellow at protests, plan a demonstration of their own on Sunday in Bangkok to denounce Thaksin and the Cambodian government.

"Abhisit is under heavy pressure by groups in Thailand to act," added Puangthong.

Extremists within the yellow-shirt movement want him to take bolder retaliation against Cambodia -- from closing all border trade to stepping up Thailand's military presence on the border.

Suthep said on Wednesday the government had no plans to close the border. Analysts say closing it could hurt Thailand as much as Cambodia, especially if Cambodia turned to Vietnam for more of its imports.

(Writing by Jason Szep; Additional reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak; Editing by Alan Raybould and Jerry Norton)
READ MORE - Thailand seeks Thaksin extradition as row deepens

Suthep: Not easy to extradite Thaksin

Bangkok Post

The government has no special plan for bringing ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra back to Thailand to face the charges against him because it must respect the sovereignty of Cambodia, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said on Wednesday.

What the government could do, he said, is to use diplomatic channels, which are internationally-accepted.

The Foreign Ministry and the Office of the Attorney-General would explain to Cambodia and global communities that Thaksin is a fugitive who fled criminal charges and a jail sentence handed down by the Supreme Court, and that he is not entitled to political asylum as he has claimed, Mr Suthep said.

He hoped the Cambodian government would put the relationship between the two countries ahead of personal interests.

It would not be easy to extradite Thaksin back here, he admitted.

Mr Suthep expressed concern that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had challenged the Thai government to close the border.

The Thai government would not be swayed by anger or any other emotion in deciding whether to close frontier checkpoints, he said.
READ MORE - Suthep: Not easy to extradite Thaksin

[Thai] Govt won’t use security law against PAD [demonstrating against Hun Xen and Thaksin]

Bangkok Post

The government has no plan to invoke the Internal Security Act to control the planned mass gathering of supporters of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) on Sunday, acting police chief Gen Pateep Tanprasert said on Wednesday.

Pol Gen Pateep earlier this morning met with Deputy Prime Minister for security affairs Suthep Thaugsuban to discuss plan to deal with the yellow-shirt demonstration.

“Police believe the Sunday demonstration by PAD supporters will be peaceful,” the acting police chief said. Mr Suthep directed him to refrain from the use of force against the protesters.

Pol Gen Pateep it had not yet been decided how many police would be be deployed during the rally.

The PAD said in its statement on Tuesday that it would stage a major rally on Nov 15, to show dissatisfaction with Cambodia's appointment of Thaksin Shinawatra as economic adviser and Thaksin's interview with The Times online about the monarchy.

The demonstrators would send a message to the world community that Thai people were loyal to the monarchy and denounce Puea Thai Party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, Thaksin and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen for having trodden on the dignity and integrity of Thailand, said Suriyasai Katasila, PAD coordinator.
READ MORE - [Thai] Govt won’t use security law against PAD [demonstrating against Hun Xen and Thaksin]

Thai construction company pulls back their machineries to Thailand

Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Translated from Khmer by Socheata

Construction machineries belonging to a Thai construction company involved in the building of a road in Banteay Meanchey province were pulled back to Thailand through the Poipet border gate following the diplomatic war between the two countries. According to an official for the Banteay Meanchey province, machineries used by a Thai construction company along National Road No. 5 have been pulled back to Thailand on Friday 06 November. The same official indicated that the Thai company that received the construction contract did not complete their project yet, but they pulled back to Thailand after the two countries pulled out their respective ambassadors.
READ MORE - Thai construction company pulls back their machineries to Thailand

Thai gamblers to O’Smach drop by 2/3

Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Translated from Khmer by Socheata

Border police at the O’Smach international border gate told Rasmei Kampuchea on 10 November that Thai gamblers traveling to casinos in Cambodia have dropped by 2/3 from an average of 300-400 per day. On the other hand, Cambodian people living near Chhorng Chorm market are still frequenting this market as usual.
READ MORE - Thai gamblers to O’Smach drop by 2/3

US president heads for Asia

Bangkok Post

US President Barack Obama is finally to arrive on his first visit to Asia since his historic election a year ago. Mr Obama arrives in Japan on Friday for talks with the new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, and later will be in China and South Korea. The main purpose of his trip is to attend this weekend's summit of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group. The Apec meeting is in Singapore, and will be the US leader's only stop in the Asean region.

Mr Obama's promises about restoring US interest in Asia in general and Asean in particular, have proved so far to be more talk than substance. His Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pointedly made her first foreign visit to Asia shortly after Mr Obama took office in January. She returned in July for the annual Asean Regional Forum in Thailand.

Mr Obama's advisers have made no promises about new initiatives during his Singapore summit. But he will face questions on three main issues.

First is the disappointment in Asean, but particularly in Indonesia of why the US president failed to make good on his implied promise to go to his boyhood home on his first trip to Asia as president. Nor will it be the first time the question is asked. It was raised seriously last June, when he chose to go to Egypt to deliver his erudite and long-awaited address to the Muslim world. The contrast seemed noteworthy: an Egypt, where Mr Obama never had visited, versus the vibrant, newly emerged democracy of Indonesia, where Mr Obama lived as a schoolboy. Now the president has again chosen to skip the world's most populous Muslim nation, where he is without doubt the most popular foreigner of the age.

More seriously, Mr Obama and advisers will find it difficult to keep a straight face in Singapore while they support free trade. The US president took office owing favours to trade unions and political groups who oppose free trade. His administration has already delivered some free-trade restrictions. Since January, the White House has trumpeted "Buy American" campaigns including new laws restricting foreign textile and clothing makers. The US has begun a so-called "tyre war" with China, and of course has delivered hundreds of billions in bailout subsidies for the US auto industry and its unionised workers.

These two minuses come with a tantalising and potentially positive new US foreign policy. Most interesting to those of us in the region is the decision, already being implemented, to engage the dictators of Burma rather than simply shun them and sanction their nation. Earlier this month, the most senior US diplomat to visit Burma in at least 14 years met both Burmese Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein and the jailed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The meetings themselves were far more form than substance. No changes were seen in either Burma or the US because of the visit by Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, Kurt Campbell. But the US has clearly held out the possibility of an essential and substantive policy change. As Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said, "It's a new approach, it's a new beginning."

After nearly a year in office, it is clear Mr Obama is no miracle worker. But still he offers the brightest hope for changes in world affairs that will mean new beginnings. For Thailand, the weekend summit gives Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva another chance to talk with Mr Obama and convince him that there is a room for the US to fill in Asia in general and Asean in particular.
READ MORE - US president heads for Asia

Situation 'normal' on Thailand's border with Cambodia: Thai army chief

BANGKOK, Nov 11 (TNA) - Thai army chief Gen Anupong Paochinda affirmed on Wednesday that there has been no military movement along the Thai-Cambodian border by either side, but that in military terms the situation is not worrisome.

Gen Anupong said the military is closely monitoring the situation and avoiding cross-border confrontations after the arrival Tuesday in Phnom Penh of ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra to lecture Cambodian economists on his first assignment as economic adviser to the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

He declined to comment on the visit to the Cambodian capital by Mr Thaksin, saying only that as a former Thai prime minister he should know what is appropriate and what is not.

As for Mr Thaksin’s interview with the Times daily in London, considered deeply offensive to the Thai monarch, Gen Anupong said the army will instruct all military personnel to not to redistribute or discuss the article as doing so has legal implications and might cause further problems.

The situation remains normal on the Cambodian border, Army spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd reported, and no special instructions have been received from the government or given by Army chief Gen Anupong.

Col Sansern said the people of the two countries have crossed border to do their business as usual.

On Thursday, he said, there will be a friendly football match between Thai and Cambodian soldiers at Phoomsarol village in Kantharalak district of Si Sa Ket province which borders Cambodia.

The Army spokesman said the Thai military on border duty are placed according the framework assigned earlier, but the diplomatic spat is the responsibility of the government to address.

The extradition bid is the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the armed forces has nothing to do with it, he said.

Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday invited spokespersons from the army, air force and navy to be briefed on the diplomatic situation between Thailand and Cambodia and the government's stance on Mr Thaksin's interview with the Times newspaper, a report which is considered offensive to the Thai monarch, to clarify information about and understanding it.

The ministry earlier on Tuesday invited governors of seven provinces bordering Cambodia to be briefed on the situation and affirmed that despite implementation of diplomatic measures, relations between the two peoples would remain calm.
READ MORE - Situation 'normal' on Thailand's border with Cambodia: Thai army chief

Cambodia refuses Thaksin extradition

November 11, 2009

CAMBODIAN officials handed over a formal letter to Thai diplomats today refusing to extradite fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Three Thai diplomats gave extradition papers to officials at Cambodia's foreign affairs ministry but were then handed back a note from Phnom Penh denying their request.

"Our diplomatic note answering them is nothing beyond rejecting the extradition request," Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told AFP shortly before officials from the two countries exchanged the formal letters.
READ MORE - Cambodia refuses Thaksin extradition

Phnom Penh refuses to receive Thai request to extradite Thaksin

Wed, November 11, 2009
By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's Foreign Ministry refused Wednesday to receive Thailand's request to extradite fugtive ex-Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, sources said.

Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh in the morning handed over the request to the Cambodia's foreign ministry to take Thaksin who is in Phnom Penh for the second day.

However the Thai embassy was informed that the ministry will have to wait for recommendation from its PM's Office.

In the meantime, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen is meeting with Thaksin Shinawatra at his office.

Thaksin began his second day in Phnom Penh with the four-eyed meeting with Hun Sen to discuss economic plan for Cambodia, sources said.
READ MORE - Phnom Penh refuses to receive Thai request to extradite Thaksin

Indonesia concerns Thailand, Cambodia tensions

CCTV (China)

Tensions between Thailand and Cambodia are raising concerns from members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Indonesia, says the dispute has to end, and the bloc must return to the usual path of friendship within ASEAN.

Marty Natalegawa, Indonesian Foreign Minister, said, "Tension between Cambodia and Thailand is something we're following extremely closely with a great deal of concern, to be honest, because it affects two fellow members of ASEAN, and we see the deterioration of relations to be in total disconnect with what ought to mark how ASEAN member countries ought to engage with one another."
READ MORE - Indonesia concerns Thailand, Cambodia tensions

Regional rift as Thaksin takes up post in Cambodia

Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Irish Times

FORMER THAI prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has flown to the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh to take up a job as special economic adviser to the government, in a provocative move that has ratcheted up regional tensions between the two neighbours.

From the time Mr Thaksin was sentenced, in absentia, to two years in jail in neighbouring Thailand for corruption, he has been busily trying to work his way back home, using tactics that have done much to undermine the government of ruling prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Mr Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 military coup, and lives mostly in exile in Dubai to avoid the two-year prison sentence. He has been working hard to build on his popularity in Thailand by presenting himself as the saviour of the nation, and has also been making efforts to show his support for the hugely popular but ailing 81-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej. “It’s time to stop finding scapegoats and start solving the nation’s problems,” Mr Thaksin has said.

Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen offered Mr Thaksin the advisory post on the eve of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) regional summit in Singapore, which will include a section hosted by Mr Abhisit. The Thais have said they will start extradition proceedings.

Ties between Cambodia and Thailand have long been fraught – the name Siem Reap, the site of the beautiful temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, means “Victory over the Thais” and refers to a 14th century Khmer victory over their neighbours.

In recent months, tensions between the neighbours have escalated over ownership of another temple, the Preah Vihear, on the border.

The Thai government has already recalled its envoy to Phnom Penh, saying Mr Thaksin’s appointment as government economic adviser and as Mr Hun’s personal adviser was “an insult to the Thai justice system”.

Mr Abhisit has backed up his anger with real threats – saying Mr Thaksin’s position as an adviser in Cambodia meant the cabinet had no choice but to approve termination of a memorandum of understanding on 26,992 sq km of disputed waters, which contain large petroleum deposits.

Cambodia has similarly recalled its envoy to Bangkok and is defiant on its controversial appointment.

“We are looking forward to learning from Thaksin’s great economic experience and we are convinced that his experience will contribute to our country’s economic development,” said Khieu Kanharith, Cambodia’s top government spokesman.

The tycoon’s supporters have repeatedly taken to the streets since he was ousted in the military coup, saying Mr Thaksin is the democratic ruler of Thailand. Supporters of the current government had previously staged demonstrations, including occupying the airport in Bangkok, to force out the subsequent government which was full of supporters of Mr Thaksin.

Since the coup, Thai courts disbanded two parties linked to him, including the winner of the 2007 election, paving the way for Mr Abhisit to form a coalition government.
READ MORE - Regional rift as Thaksin takes up post in Cambodia

Thaksin extradition sought

Nov 11, 2009

PHNOM PENH - THAILAND was set to formally ask Cambodia on Wednesday to extradite Thaksin Shinawatra, deepening a row over Phnom Penh's appointment of the fugitive former Thai premier as an economic adviser.

Thaksin, who was toppled three years ago in a coup and is living abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption, arrived in Cambodia on Tuesday to take up his new position and was welcomed by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Cambodia has vowed to refuse any request from its larger neighbour for the extradition of the billionaire tycoon, saying that the charges levelled against Thaksin in Thailand were politically motivated.

Thai foreign ministry officials said diplomats would hand the extradition papers to Cambodian authorities early on Wednesday. Thailand and Cambodia recalled their ambassadors from each other's countries last week.

'The papers were conveyed to our embassy in Phnom Penh late Tuesday and we believe they can be submitted to the Cambodia foreign ministry tomorrow,' senior Thai Foreign Ministry official Panich Vikitsreth told AFP. 'We believe our request will reach the Cambodian foreign ministry during the period of time that Thaksin stays there.'

Thaksin is due to give a speech to 300 Cambodian economics experts on Thursday. Cambodian officials have said he will stay in the country for two or three days but is not intending to live there.
READ MORE - Thaksin extradition sought

[Thai] Cabinet revokes MoU on maritime border

Bangkok Post

The cabinet has revoked a memorandum of understanding on the overlapping maritime boundary with Cambodia but it will not take effect until it is approved by parliament.

Acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn yesterday said the cabinet decided to scrap the MoU because former prime minister Thaksin knew the Thai position and details which could put Thailand in a disadvantageous position, and negotiations between the two countries had made little progress over the past eight years.

''We haven't benefited from this MoU because Cambodia has not cooperated in abiding by the framework set by this MoU that much,'' said Mr Panitan.

The MoU was signed in 2001 when Thaksin was prime minister. Its main goal is to demarcate the territorial waters and jointly explore natural gas and oil reserves in the area.

The cabinet will now seek parliamentary approval to annul the MoU.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the cabinet needed to urgently propose the termination of the MoU to parliament because the current parliamentary session will end on Nov 28.

Meanwhile, a joint session of the two houses yesterday withdrew the agreed minutes of the Joint Boundary Commission on the joint survey and demarcation of the disputed area around the Preah Vihear temple. Members of the two houses voted 314 to 35 to withdraw it from the agenda.
READ MORE - [Thai] Cabinet revokes MoU on maritime border

Govt calls for Thaksin's arrest

Borders will remain open, says Suthep

Bangkok Post

Thailand has asked the Cambodian authorities to arrest former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra following his arrival in Phnom Penh yesterday.

A source at the Foreign Ministry said the request from the Office of the Attorney-General had been forwarded to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh along with details of the 2008 court ruling which found Thaksin guilty of corruption.

The request for Thaksin's arrest would be conveyed to the Cambodian government no later than today, the source said.

The move is the first step in the process of having the ousted prime minister returned to Thailand to serve his two-year jail term. The call for his "provisional arrest" would soon be followed by an extradition request, the source said.

The Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions sentenced Thaksin in October last year to two years in jail after finding him guilty of a conflict of interest involving the 2003 Ratchadaphisek land purchase case.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday said the Thai government would wait for Phnom Penh's response to the request for Thaksin's arrest before deciding on its next move.

Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong yesterday ruled out the extradition of Thaksin.

He said: "We will not extradite him. We already clarified this case because he is a political victim."

Thaksin landed at Phnom Penh International Airport in a private jet and was escorted into the capital in a convoy under tight security.

"Thaksin is here for the economy and no activities related to politics," Cambodian cabinet spokesman Phay Siphan said. "It is an honour for Cambodia's economic sector and we hope that Cambodians nationwide welcome him warmly."

Thaksin is expected to stay for a few days and is due to address 300 Cambodian economists in Phnom Penh tomorrow as part of his new post.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen last month asked Thaksin to become an economic adviser to his government.

State television yesterday showed Thaksin and Hun Sen embracing. The Cambodian leader reportedly pronounced him an "eternal friend" as well as "the best adviser with economic leadership".

Thaksin reportedly thanked Hun Sen for offering him the post of economic adviser and said "nothing can compare" to his excitement in taking up the new role.

Hun Sen and Thaksin were seen laughing and chatting at a house specially prepared for the exiled leader, but Thaksin said on Twitter he was "really homesick".

"Tonight I will dine with Prime Minister Hun Sen and his family. I want to reiterate that nation, religion and monarchy are always in my mind," Thaksin wrote.

Phay Siphan said Hun Sen would host a lunch today for Thaksin "because the two leaders are close friends".

"He is coming to give a lecture only, so I believe that he will not do anything related to political activity here," Phay Siphan told reporters.

Thailand and Cambodia recalled their ambassadors last week in an escalating row over Thaksin. His presence on Thailand's doorstep is the closest he has come to his homeland since he left in August 2008.

Despite the growing diplomatic tension, Mr Abhisit and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban yesterday said Thailand would not close its border with Cambodia.

Mr Suthep, who supervises security affairs, said the border crossing would not be sealed because people on either side were related and they deserved to live a normal life.

However, the Thai government would continue to stress that Thaksin was using Cambodia as a base to hurt the Kingdom, he said.

"We must tell the world community that we love peace and want to maintain friendship with neighbouring countries," Mr Suthep said.

"But the government of the neighbouring country happens to accommodate the one who is hurting our country, hurting our people and hurting our (royal) institution. We must speak out."
READ MORE - Govt calls for Thaksin's arrest

Cambodian stubbornness raises tensions [-Is Cambodia the only one who is stubborn?]

Bangkok Post

The Cambodian government's refusal to acknowledge a Thai protest played a part in Bangkok's decision to recall its ambassador and downgrade relations with Phnom Penh.

The Foreign Ministry summoned Cambodian ambassador You Aye to the ministry to accept a formal letter of protest the day after Thaksin Shinawatra's appointment as an adviser to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was announced last Wednesday.

But the envoy neither appeared in person nor sent a representative to receive the protest.

The ambassador's action was seen as unacceptable as it demonstrated Phnom Penh's lack of concern over the matter.

Thai ambassador to Cambodia, Prasas Prasasvinitchai, was ordered to return to Thailand that day.

Phnom Penh then recalled You Aye, who travelled back to her country by car on Friday.

The government has now gone a step further by terminating the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the disputed maritime boundary dividing the two countries.

The ministry cited "a fundamental change in circumstances" under the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of the Treaties as the basis for the revocation. The convention states: "A party may claim that a treaty should be terminated, even without an express provision, if there has been a fundamental change in circumstances. Such a change is sufficient if unforeseen, if it undermined the 'essential basis' of consent by a party, if it radically transforms the extent of obligations between the parties, and if the obligations are still to be performed."

It is applicable in this case as Thaksin's appointment as an economic adviser will give Cambodia an undue advantage in future negotiations. Thaksin's administration was involved in drawing up the MoU. The document was signed in 2001 when he was prime minister.

Thailand believes Cambodia has violated an objective of the MoU whereby the two sides agreed to jointly develop the area and delimit the overlapping maritime zone together under a clause saying the two things are "an indivisible package".

The Foreign Ministry's legal experts met on Sunday to discuss Thailand's decision to terminate the MoU. The meeting decided the move was possible.

They briefed Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya on his return from the Japan-Mekong summit in Japan.

Yesterday's cabinet decision to terminate the MoU will require parliamentary endorsement. If approved, it will be the first time Thailand has unilaterally revoked a treaty with another country.
READ MORE - Cambodian stubbornness raises tensions [-Is Cambodia the only one who is stubborn?]

Thaksin Shinawatra - Top-Crook lands Top Job

Tuesday 10. Nov 2009

Criminal fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra was appointed senior governmental adviser for economics in Cambodia. Thaksin, responsible also for vast environmental destruction, the persecution of the Akha people and sick ventures like the Chian-Mai Night-Zoo for which he wanted to steal wildlife from Kenya must be attractive to the Cambodians because the economy of the crooks seems to rule today's world.

Thailand on Monday accused ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra of offending the country's monarchy, stepping up pressure on the fugitive tycoon as he prepares for a provocative trip to neighboring Cambodia. The Thai government also said it was preparing a formal extradition request for Thaksin, who was toppled in a 2006 coup, when he visits Phnom Penh this week in his new capacity as economics adviser to the Cambodian leadership.

ASEAN said on Monday that the conflict between Thailand and Cambodia has triggered anxiety in the organisation. ''This is not just a border dispute any more because it has caused anxiety in ASEAN and could affect the image and profile of the body,'' the Secretary-General of ASEAN Surin Pitsuwan told ambassadors for the organisation in Jakarta.
READ MORE - Thaksin Shinawatra - Top-Crook lands Top Job

Cadres face prospect of more arrests

'Sometimes [my children] ask me, “Who is the Khmer Rouge? Who did all this killing?” And when they do that, I clap my hands on my chest and say, “It’s me.”'
Meas Muth, former Khmer Rouge military division chairman, speaks at his expansive home in Samlot, Battambang. (Photo by: Heng Chivoan)
'I have said again and again that I do not want to go to that court.'
Former Khmer Rouge Northwest Zone district chief Im Chem. (Photo by: Robbie Corey-Boulet)

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Robbie Corey-boulet and May Titthara
The Phnom Penh Post

Former Khmer Rouge describe complex attachment to regime and its legacy.

Oddar Meanchey and Battambang Provinces - At the age of 14, Out Moeun left her family home in Anlong Veng district, Oddar Meanchey province, to work for Khmer Rouge Central Committee member Chhit Choeun, alias Ta Mok.

Though it was 1987, a full eight years after the regime fell from power, units of Khmer Rouge soldiers were still scattered throughout Cambodia, and she was one of many girls recruited to supply them with weapons. Every two weeks or so, she and seven other girls would rise before dawn and begin travelling, mostly on foot, to provinces as far afield as Kampong Cham and Kampong Chhnang. They each carried a case of AK-47s on their backs, along with one package containing food, clothing and a hammock.

Government and Vietnamese soldiers, from whom the girls had been instructed to hide, routinely accosted them. “I shot at those enemy troops more times than I know how to count,” Out Moeun, now 36, recalled in an interview at her roadside grocery stall less than a kilometre from Ta Mok’s old house. She was hit only once in those exchanges, sustaining a bullet wound she showed off readily: a deep purple scar on the right side of her belly.

Like many former cadres in Anlong Veng, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold, Out Moeun still speaks admiringly of the movement’s leaders, particularly Ta Mok, whom she described as “a good leader” and “a better man than Pol Pot”. She shed tears when discussing his arrest in 1999 and his 2006 death in pretrial detention at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

This allegiance, however, has not translated into resentment towards the tribunal itself, which she credited with operating “according to the law”. Asked if she was concerned about international prosecutors’ ongoing push for more investigations, she said she was far too busy supporting her family to pay much attention to the tribunal and its work.

She added: “I don’t care about the court arresting more people, because the people they would arrest are not related to those of us at the lower levels. We don’t care.”

The question of how former cadres might respond to more arrests assumed greater urgency after the tribunal announced in September that it had opened the door to investigations beyond those of the five leaders currently detained. That decision overrode objections raised by national co-prosecutor Chea Leang, who had argued that, as a result of additional prosecutions, “ex-members and those who have allegiance to Khmer Rouge leaders may commit violent acts”. Five days after the announcement, Prime Minister Hun Sen echoed this warning in a speech, saying, “If you want a tribunal, but you don’t want to consider peace and reconciliation and war breaks out again, killing 200,000 or 300,000 people, who will be responsible?”

Contrary to these statements, interviews with former cadres in Anlong Veng and Samlot, another former stronghold in Battambang province, suggested a more complicated attachment to the regime and its legacy, one that would seem to preclude outright violence in response to an expanded dragnet. Like Out Moeun, most former cadres disavowed any personal stake in the fate of former regime leaders, though they also took obvious pride in the power those leaders once wielded – and in their own small contributions in support of that power.

San Roeun, a 56-year-old former soldier who now sells tickets to Ta Mok’s house, which has been transformed into a government-run tourism site, expressed concern about how more arrests might affect “the political situation”. But he ruled out the prospect of civil war, emphasising that he and others like him had little interest in the welfare of those who might be arrested.

“The reason I joined the Khmer Rouge was because I wanted to help King Sihanouk,” he said. “I never knew about Pol Pot. We wanted to fight Lon Nol.”

Reminiscing on his years in combat, he spoke at length of his performance on the battlefield, describing his ability not only to survive but to continue killing government troops during the 1980s.

“My son and daughter, they are in school now, and they are reading about the history of the Khmer Rouge killings,” he said, sitting in the booth from which he sells 50 tickets on a typical day. “Sometimes they ask me, ‘Who is the Khmer Rouge? Who did all this killing?’ And when they do that, I clap my hands on my chest and say, ‘It’s me. Your father is the Khmer Rouge.’”

Former military chairman speaks out

Among the few cadres who claimed that more arrests could in fact lead to civil war were Meas Muth, a former Khmer Rouge military division chairman, and Im Chem, a former Khmer Rouge district chief, who have been named by scholars and in the media, respectively, as possible suspects.

In an interview at his Samlot home, Meas Muth, who was listed as a possible suspect in a 2001 report by historian Stephen Heder and war crimes lawyer Brian Tittemore, said Hun Sen’s prediction of “200,000 or 300,000” deaths was sound.

“Hun Sen knows everything about his country, and he was thinking about its future. There could be civil war,” said the former secretary of Central Committee Division 164, which incorporated the Khmer Rouge navy. He added that his “supporters” would likely take part in the unrest, and that he had supporters “everywhere in Kampuchea”.

In their report, titled “Seven Candidates for Prosecution: Accountability for the Crimes of the Khmer Rouge”, Heder and Tittemore point to “compelling evidence” suggesting that Meas Muth was responsible for the execution of cadres under his command. That evidence includes 24 Tuol Sleng confessions signed by prisoners from his division.

Though Meas Muth denies having been informed of Khmer Rouge arrest, interrogation and execution policies, the report includes accounts of meetings during which they were apparently discussed. At a General Staff meeting he attended in 1976, for instance, Son Sen, the defence minister, instructed those present to “have an absolute standpoint about purging counterrevolutionary elements; don’t be half-baked”. The following month, Son Sen said at a similar meeting that the party should do “whatever needs to be done to make our army clean”. At that meeting, according to the report, Meas Muth said, “On this I would like to be in total agreement and unity with the party. Do whatever needs to be done not to allow the situation to get out of hand” and to prevent the strengthening of “no-good elements or enemies”.

Along with an overview of the evidence and its implications, the report includes a thumbnail sketch of a young Meas Muth, a broad-shouldered man in a plaid shirt with full, closed lips and a thick head of brown hair. For the interview in Samlot, the former commander, now 73, wore a light blue button-up half-sleeve shirt over a tank top. His lips, when opened, revealed stained, jagged teeth, and his considerably thinner hair had whitened.

As he talked, he smoked tobacco wrapped in tree leaves and spat into a dark blue pail that rested beside his chair. The shade of the pail matched exactly the stones embedded in the patterned tiles that covered the floor, one of the more eye-catching features of his sprawling home, which comprises three buildings and is surrounded by a 5-hectare orchard of coconut, mango and jackfruit trees. Another highlight is the staircase of the main building, an imposing spiral made of polished beng wood.

Completed in 2006, the house stands in marked contrast with the more modest, though comfortable, stilt constructions nearby, and has become a frequent gathering place for Meas Muth’s neighbours, many of whom are relatives, supporters or soldiers who fought under him. On the afternoon of the interview, neighbours stopped by periodically to discuss plans for the next day’s Kathen festival celebration to be held at the nearby Ta Sanh Chas pagoda, the construction of which Meas Muth has largely funded.

One family brought a guest who had never before been to the house. Upon entering, she complimented Meas Muth on the stones in the floor. Meas Muth looked down and said: “These stones, these are just simple stones. They are not high-quality.” The guest then walked to the staircase, put her arm on the banister and marvelled at the sheen of the wood. Meas Muth replied, “That’s made out of just simple wood. It is not a rare quality. It is just normal wood. Maybe you could find it anywhere.”

After 10 minutes of small-talk, the family left, and Meas Muth answered questions about the allegations laid out in the Heder and Tittemore report.

“Yes, I remember that man,” he said, referring to Heder, the principal author. “He spoke Khmer fluently, and then he just wrote blah blah. It wasn’t true. He just wrote what he heard, not what he saw.”

He said that, contrary to the report, he spent the regime years as a “simple leader” supervising workers in the Battambang rice fields.

“I had never heard about S-21, because I was not in Phnom Penh. I was here, in Samlot, so I just knew everything around me,” he said.

He acknowledged having attended the meetings mentioned in the report, including a General Staff meeting in September 1976 at which Tuol Sleng was represented by its third-ranking cadre. But he said he did not remember what was discussed. “I can’t remember because it’s been over 30 years already,” he said.

He said he would not be surprised if the court came to arrest him, though he argued that this would be a waste of everyone’s time, in no small part because, unlike Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, he would resist cooperating with any attempt to prosecute him. Not for him, apparently, the teary confessions, the claims of responsibility or the pleas for forgiveness that were the hallmarks of the Duch hearings.

“Duch is crazy, because he wants the tribunal to be the end of his life,” Meas Muth said. “For me, I will not cooperate. I want to have a life, like all other people.”

‘We must follow the leader’

Like Meas Muth, former Khmer Rouge district chief Im Chem, who in September was reported to be a suspect by the French newspaper Le Monde, said the threat of unrest was real.

In an interview at her home in Anlong Veng, where she lives with her husband and one of her two daughters, she said attempts to uncover the truth about old conflicts would inevitably give rise to new ones.

“If you want to recover it, it will become new,” she said. “People will go to protest in Phnom Penh to demand that the prime minister doesn’t arrest more people, because he said he wouldn’t. And if he allows it to happen anyway, civil war will happen again.”

The Northwest Zone district Im Chem headed, Preah Net Preah, was home to Trapaing Thmar Dam, the regime’s biggest irrigation project.

“Thousands and thousands of people were sent there to dig this water basin, which is even bigger than the baray at Angkor Wat,” Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam), said in an email. Notorious for its brutal working conditions, the dam was included in a list of work sites falling under the scope of the investigation for the court’s second case that was made public last week. DC-Cam’s 2007 annual report describes Im Chem as “one of the overseers of the [dam’s] construction”.

Im Chem, now 67, repeated her claim that the dam was completed by the time she was transferred to Preah Net Preah, and she added that, as district chief, she had the authority only “to encourage people to work in the rice fields”.

Several former cadres and experts said Im Chem was too far down the chain of command to be a likely candidate for prosecution. “If she is one of the suspects, then the gates are wide open, since there are a number of former Khmer Rouge on her level who are still alive,” said Alex Hinton, author of Why Did They Kill?: Cambodia in the Shadow of Genocide.

For her part, Im Chem said she survived the regime by following Ta Mok from her native Takeo province to the northwest, adding that any crimes she might have committed were the result of having obeyed his orders. “We live in a society where we must follow the leader,” she said.

She denied being concerned about talk of more arrests, though she, too, said she would not cooperate with an investigation.

If the court were to detain her, she asked that she at least receive advanced notice. “If they want to take me to the court, they should alert me first, because sometimes I take naps, and it would take me by surprise if I were sleeping,” she said. “Plus, I have said again and again that I do not want to go to that court.”

‘Finish the job’

Though Meas Muth and Im Chem were largely alone in their descriptions of the threat of civil war, many low-level cadres shared their view that more arrests would do more harm than good, citing concerns that any resulting tension, even if it didn’t lead to violence, could compromise efforts to promote national reconciliation and economic development.

Those residents of Anlong Veng and Samlot who have no ties to the regime, however, for the most part encouraged the court to continue its pursuit of former leaders.

“The prime minister says he will not allow the court to arrest anyone else, but I don’t care,” said Long Thy, 49, who moved to Anlong Veng in 1999. “I want to see justice. If they can investigate even just one more leader, they should do it. It’s up to the court.”

Mao Sovannara, 41, a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldier who has been posted in Samlot since 2005, said it was the government’s responsibility to remedy any problems resulting from more arrests, not to air its views on whether they should be carried out in the first place.

In 1975, at the age of 7, the Battambang native was taken from his home and sent to a cooperative in Banteay Meanchey, a move that separated him from his parents, his brother and his sister. The conditions in the rice fields, he said, were “like torture”, and he never saw his parents and brother again.

Speaking outside the grocery stall they run in the Samlot market, both he and his sister, Mao Ravin, said they had gotten to know Meas Muth since moving there, and that they had no problem with him personally. “I do not discriminate against him,” Mao Ravin said. “He’s a good man now.”

But Mao Sovannara said his relationships with Meas Muth and other cadres had not altered his belief that the tribunal was necessary. “I’ve waited over 30 years to see justice, so the tribunal should be allowed to do its work,” he said. “The young generation will get important knowledge, and also a lesson: When you start something, you don’t stop in the middle. You finish the job.”
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Cambodia Struggles to Save Mothers, Even as It Succeeds in Reducing Child Deaths

Mother and child in Cambodia

By Robert Carmichael, VOA
Phnom Penh
10 November 2009

Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. Given its turbulent past, decades of civil war and the devastating policies of the Khmer Rouge to name just two, it faces extra hurdles on its way to improving health care for its citizens.

Cambodia is working to reduce the number of women who die in childbirth and to lower the number of infants and children under age five who die.

The figures in the two efforts reveal an anomaly: While Cambodia has succeeded in dramatically cutting the ratio of children who die each year, the maternal mortality figure has not dropped in a decade.

Around 460 Cambodian women die in childbirth for every 100,000 births. The country had hoped to bring that figure down to 140 deaths per 100,000 births by 2015 as part of its commitment to its Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs.

Dr. Lo Veasnakiry, who heads the Ministry of Health's planning unit, blames the lack of success, in part, on a shortage of funds and expertise, but he also says the target was excessively optimistic. "The global MDG said that [each] country had to reduce two-thirds of the baseline information when they started the MDG. From a global viewpoint [it's] not only Cambodia - a lot of countries have not made significant progress in terms of maternal deaths," he said.

A study in 2005 found that around half of the Cambodian women who die in childbirth succumb to massive blood loss. A quarter die from eclampsia, which is a problem related to high blood pressure.

Malalay Ahmadzai, the mother and child healthcare specialist for UNICEF in Cambodia, says both conditions require rapid treatment - in the case of blood loss a woman can die within a few hours.

She says the onset of maternal complications is unpredictable, and the response is often slowed by what health experts call "the three delays". "The first delay is decision-making in the family whether to seek care or not. The second is the roads - roads counts as one of them - but costs, costs, roads and access. And third is the quality of care," she said,

The solution is a mix of better resources, more trained medical staff, and better roads - the logic being that the quicker patients get to a clinic, the better their chances of survival.

Cambodia's inability to save mothers contrasts with its success in lowering infant and child deaths.

The country aims to reduce the ratio of infants dying before their first birthday to 50 per 1,000 live births - or five percent.

Ten years ago the rate was almost twice that. Today's rate is six percent, putting Cambodia well on its way to hitting its target.

It is a similar story with deaths among children under five; the rate has dropped to 83 per 1,000, down sharply from 124 a decade ago.

Lo says the government's financial commitment to the health sector has proved vital to saving children. He also credits the cash and technical help from health partners such as UNICEF.

Ahmadzai says other factors play a part, too. "One has been the strong performance of the national immunization program. That has been one key promising intervention identified. Second has been the improvement in breastfeeding practices, and that goes back to a lot of community work plus support to the health centers and so on," she said.

Tackling maternal mortality, on the other hand, requires that good quality care be quickly available at health clinics. And in much of Cambodia, the quality of care is insufficient.

One problem health care providers have here is getting good data on the maternal mortality rate. Some officials say it actually could be anywhere between 300 deaths and 700 deaths per 100,000 births.

A more accurate figure will emerge next year when the five-yearly nationwide health survey is taken.

The Ministry of Health's Lo is optimistic that the new data will show an improvement in the rate.

That is because every one of Cambodia's almost 1,000 healthcare clinics now has a midwife. A year ago around 90 percent did.

Also, more women receive care before giving birth than ever before, and more midwives are present at births.

But even Lo does not expect the improvement will bring the goal of 140 deaths per 100,000 births within reach. He recently proposed that the government raise the target to 250.

While that rate is far from ideal, Lo points out that the lower rate will still be a significant improvement for Cambodian families.
READ MORE - Cambodia Struggles to Save Mothers, Even as It Succeeds in Reducing Child Deaths