Archive for April, 2009

Thailand, Cambodia in talks over border

5th April 2009, 18:35 WST
Cambodian and Thai officials held urgent talks on Sunday to prevent fresh fighting on their border after months of tensions over disputed land near an ancient temple flared up into deadly gunbattles.

A third Thai soldier died in hospital following Friday’s clashes, which plunged relations between the neighbours to a new low just days before a regional summit that was supposed to focus on the global economic slowdown.

Military officials from both sides met over lunch in disputed territory near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple on Sunday, while Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was set to meet Thai officials later in the capital Phnom Penh.

“We held the meeting in order to make the situation return to normal and to make sure there’s no more gunfire. We have agreed to stay on our sides of the border,” Cambodian Major General Srey Doek said after the lunchtime talks.

Troops could be seen chatting and some even stowed away their weapons but said they remained ready to fight after their clash, the biggest burst of violence over the territory since four people died there in October.

Decades of tensions over ownership of the site started to boil over after Cambodia successfully applied for United Nations world heritage status for the ruins in July.

Major General Kanok Netrak Thavesanak, the Thai officer who attended the talks near Preah Vihear, said officials from his country would meet later with Hun Sen.

Cambodian cabinet spokesman Phay Siphan said the meeting would focus on the recent violence. There was no immediate reaction on the talks from the military or foreign ministry in Bangkok.

“A Thai official is going to meet with the Cambodian prime minister today and they will talk about the clashes that happened two days earlier,” Phay Siphan told AFP.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva meanwhile said the issue would come up when he meets with Hun Sen at a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its regional partners in Thailand next week.

“This will be raised in next week’s meeting to find a solution to the problem,” Abhisit said in his weekly television broadcast.

“It is sad for those who lost their lives. We will speed up the return of the situation to normal and resume the talking process as soon as possible,” Abhisit added.

Pre-arranged talks on the border situation, the latest in a series that have been held over the past six months, are also set to go ahead as planned on Monday and Tuesday in Phnom Penh.

The Thai and Cambodian leaders sought to play down the latest crisis on Saturday, saying that it was the result of a misunderstanding and that the two countries were not at war.

But while tensions had noticeably eased at the border on Sunday, Cambodian troops said they remained alert against alleged Thai incursions.

, , ,

No Comments

Stream of jobless migrant workers returning from abroad adds to local misery

Migrant labourers across south-east Asia are on the move. Workers cast from lucrative overseas jobs are returning home. The stream is matched by domestic migration, as unemployed labourers who trekked from the countryside for jobs head back to villages.

For the Philippines in particular, one in 10 of its more than eight million people worked abroad as nurses, domestic labour or in factories. Thousands are returning home as factories shut.

In Vietnam, about 500,000 of the 45-million strong workforce is overseas, but the government fears the return of many of these will add to pressures squeezing the economy. Their remittances made up 8% of gross domestic product in 2007. The imminent influx will compound the effect of a dramatic slowing of the economy where manufacturing exports account for 40% of GDP. Last year 30,000 lost their jobs, but the forecast for this year is that another 300,000 to join them. Most have little choice but to return to families in the countryside.

The picture in Cambodia is even worse. The garment industry producing for the US and Europe accounts for 94% of the country’s exports. It shrank by 4% last year, eliminating 27,000 jobs out of 300,000. Optimistic forecasts predicted a further 3% contraction in 2009, with the loss of 19,000 jobs, but orders dried up in the first three months of the year. With no unemployment benefits, labourers have no option but to return to families and subsistence farms in the countryside.

A tide of unemployed migrants has sparked fears of social unrest. The UN’s International Labour Organisation estimated unemployment across Asia-Pacific could hit 7.2 million between 2008 and 2009, and accelerate to 23.3 million if the recession deepens.

In Thailand, where the economy depends on exports of goods and services for 73% of GDP, thousands have lost jobs in manufacturing grounded in automotive and electronics exports, although they are cushioned by a modest social security net for up to six months. The economy is set to shrink by up to 3% this year.

Malaysia predicts that 4.5% of its workforce will be jobless this year, up from 3.7% in 2008. It aims to cancel visas for up to 60% of the 2.1 million foreign migrants in the country when their contracts end, sending them back to Bangladesh and Vietnam among others.



, ,

No Comments

Cambodia and Thailand in new armed clashes over temple site

Published Date: 04 April 2009
By Sopheng Cheang in Phnom Penh

THAI and Cambodian soldiers traded machinegun and rocket fire along their disputed border yesterday, leaving up to four dead, as a long-standing feud over an 11th-century temple escalated.
The Cambodian government said four Thai soldiers had been killed and ten captured during the clashes, but Thailand’s foreign ministry insisted only one of its troops had been killed and none taken prisoner.

The fighting is the latest flare-up neaADVERTISEMENTr the cliff-top Preah Vihear temple, which is on the Cambodian side of an ill- defined border that has been a source of conflict for decades. Two clashes last year sparked brief concerns of war.

The two countries have long had competing claims to land surrounding the temple, which the World Court awarded to Cambodia in 1962. Tensions flared last July after Unesco, the UN cultural agency, approved Cambodia’s bid to have the temple named a World Heritage Site. Both sides deployed troops.

In the first round of yesterday’s fighting, Cambodian forces fired on some 60 Thai soldiers who entered Cambodian territory, sparking a battle that lasted about ten minutes, according to Yim Kheang, a Cambodian soldier at the border.

The Thai foreign ministry said the clash started when their soldiers arrived to investigate the site where one of their colleagues had his leg blown off by a land mine on Thursday. As they approached the area, Cambodian soldiers opened fire, he said.

Thai defence minister Prawit Wongsuwan downplayed the clash. “It was an accident, a misunderstanding among officials on the ground, which is common when you are closely positioned,” he told reporters.

In the second clash, Cambodians said Thai soldiers shot rocket-propelled grenades into their territory. Thailand denied the allegation.


, , ,

No Comments

Hun Sen: No sign of crisis in Cambodia

By Vireak In

02 April 2009

After reading The Cambodian Daily, Wednesday 25 March title “Hun Sen: No Sign of crises in Cambodia”. In the article Prime minister said “I do not see any sign of crisis, I see cars, motorbikes and business.  I have not seen people abandoning their cars and motorbikes in the streets”. 

Reaksmey - 12 years old saleperson

Reaksmey - 12 years old saleperson

These kind of responses from the Prime minister make many including myself scratching our head.
Try to tell that to people like Reaksmey, a 12 years old girl who earn less then a dollar per day.  Now with less number of tourists visiting Cambodia, Reaksmey will earn even less per day.  Reaksmey told me that she wants to earn enough money so she can put it toward her education.  There are many unfortunate people like Reaksmey, but Cambodian people never blame anyone but themselves.  They don’t even know government can do something to improve their living standard or make law to protect market monopoly.

Is Cambodia immune to the global slowdown?

With the increasingly gloomy global outlook putting pressure on many leaders around the world to make decisive action, as listed in today Australian Financial review newspaper, here is what the Australian federal government says it has done for small business:

· Tax bonuses for low and middle income earners as part of the $42 billion stimulus package that it says many small business people will qualify for. Cost $12.2 bn
· Extra 30 per cent tax break on assets costing $1000 or more. Cost 2.7bn
· 20 per cent discount on the Pay As You Go income tax installment due in March. Cost $440 m in 2008-2009
· One stop-stop small business advisory services. Cost $46 m
· $4bn fund to support commercial property and tradepeople who service it.
· $14.7bn investment to build or upgrade schools benefiting small business
· On-time payment guarantee for new small business contracts worth up to $1m with commonwealth departments.  Payments will be made with 30 days.
· $1.5bn first home owners boost benefiting small business, independent contractors and tradepeople
· 711,000 new training places over five years.

As the G-20 summit approaching, many leaders gather the momentum and find ways to tackle the financial crises.  In the press conference yesterday, Prime Minister of England, Gordon Brown said “Today, within months of this financial crisis, we are coming together to solve the common problems we face, we are cooperating to shorten the recession, and we are working together to protect and save jobs”. 

So what is so special about Cambodia a country of about 14 million, how can Cambodia avoid the financial crises?  Australia has the population of around 21 million, the current forecast of unemployment set to be 7 percents, the figure make many Australian MP open their big eyes.  The treasury is preparing the ground for a massive new burst of fiscal stimulus in next month.  Is the Australian government over reacting or the Cambodian government turn their blind eyes and ignore the plea for help from their people. 

In the same article, president Sam Rainsy party said “There will be serious effect in Cambodia, because the government hasn’t take any measures to resolve the economic crisis,  he added “the government should be cautious and take measures, but I have seen no measures”.  Why president Sam Rainsy feel the need for action, while the government seem to lay back.

As one observer put it, Prime Minister Hun Sen only travel in bullet proof car from his compound to another.  He never takes the time to meet real people like Reaksmey, or visit the shopping centre.  He always surrounding by body guards and advisors.

People like Reaksmey can not wait to see the time when the Cambodian government put their people before the interest of individual, until then people like Reaksmey will have a chance to live in dignity and can look up high.  Until then the government will feel the plea from their people either when the economy is up or when it is down.

We are waiting for that day!

, , , ,

No Comments

Thai, Cambodian border fighting has stopped: Thai government

Fighting between Thai and Cambodian soldiers in a disputed border region has stopped after an exchange of heavy gunfire, Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said by telephone. “The army chiefs are now talking,” Tharit said. “We asked for a ceasefire and do not want to use force.”

Cambodian and Thai troops engaged in “large-scale fighting” today, Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said by phone. Two Thai soldiers were killed and six wounded, he said. Tharit denied the claim and said Thailand had suffered no deaths or injuries.

Two Cambodian soldiers were killed after soldiers fired at each other in at least three locations on the border, Agence France-Presse said, citing government spokesman Khieu Kanharith. Phay Siphan said he couldn¡¦t confirm the Cambodian deaths.

The fighting erupted before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Thailand and Cambodia are members, will hold a summit from April 10 to 12 in Pattaya south of Bangkok with the leaders of China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen plans to attend.

The disputed area has been the site of numerous incidents since July, when Thailand objected to Cambodia¡¦s efforts to list Preah Vihear temple as a United Nations World Heritage site. The countries agreed in October to avoid clashes in the area after two Cambodian soldiers were killed in a gun battle.

Warning Issued

Hun Sen warned Thailand on March 31 that fighting would break out should troops from its neighbor cross into Cambodian territory.

Thailand plans to write a letter of protest to Cambodia after a five-minute exchange of gunfire between their troops earlier today, Tharit said.

The shooting erupted after Thai troops invited the Cambodians to inspect the site where a soldier from Thailand stepped on a landmine and lost his leg, Tharit said.

The meeting failed to resolve matters and the Cambodians left, then started firing, Tharit said. Thai officers suspect a newly laid landmine caused yesterday¡¦s blast, he said.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice ruled in a 9-3 vote that Cambodia had sovereignty over Preah Vihear. The court didn¡¦t rule on the disputed land near the temple.

Thai and Cambodian officials have scheduled meetings to continue work on demarcating their 803-kilometer (499-mile) border. The two countries have yet to divide 10,422 square miles in the Gulf of Thailand that may contain oil and gas reserves.


, , ,

No Comments

Thai, Cambodian troops clash near temple

04 April 2009, Saturday

Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged rocket and rifle fire on a disputed stretch of their border on Friday, killing one Thai in the latest flare-up of an ancient feud over a 900-year-old Hindu temple.

Both sides accused each other of firing first in two separate clashes near the Preah Vihear temple, which is claimed by both Southeast Asian nations and saw an armed standoff last year. One Thai soldier died from a rocket-propelled grenade fired by Cambodian troops when fighting resumed after midday talks between the border commanders failed. Seven Thai soldiers were also wounded in the second battle, Wiboonsak Neepan, commander of Thailand’s Second Army, told Reuters. In Phnom Penh, Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said he had received reports of two Cambodian soldiers killed in the initial fighting this morning, but it was not confirmed. Cambodian officials claimed two Thais died in the morning clash. Thailand said no one was hurt then and it planned to lodge a formal protest with the Cambodian government.


, , ,

No Comments

Hun Sen warns of border fight, criticises Kasit


By: Bangkok Post
Published: 1/04/2009 at 07:13 AM

PHNOM PENH: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned Thailand it will face resistance if its troops again cross their disputed border.

Hun Sen made the remarks on Tuesday, a week after Cambodian officials said about 100 Thai troops briefly entered contested territory near the ancient Preah Vihear temple where a deadly gun battle broke out last year.

“I tell you first, if you enter [Cambodian territory] again, we will fight,” Hun Sen said at a ceremony to open a road named after him in the seaside resort of Sihanoukville.

“The troops at the border have already received the order.

“I am the leader of Cambodia who was elected by the will of the people, not by robbing power,” he said, in an apparent reference to Thailand’s current political instability.

Hun Sen also told his audience that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will visit Cambodia on April 18, but blasted Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya for allegedly insulting him.

“He insults me – he has called me a gangster,” he said of the foreign minister.

“What would you say if I insulted your prime minister and your ancestors? I’m not angry with you, but please use dignified words.”

Tensions over the long-disputed territory flared in July last year after the 11th century temple was granted United Nations world heritage status. Soldiers clashed in the area in October, leaving four troops dead.

Subsequent talks between Cambodia and Thailand have not resolved the border dispute.

Thai officials deny that any of their troops crossed the border last week.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said the ministry had not received an official report on Hun Sen’s speech, but said there had been a “misinterpretation” of earlier comments made by Mr Kasit regarding Hun Sen.

“Thailand wants to avoid using force and supports using border mechanisms to solve problems,” Mr Tharit said.

“The border mechanism is working well.”


, , ,

No Comments