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Democrats wrong from the start on Preah Vihear

June 16, 2011 Leave a comment

It seems no political parties, other than Suwit Khunkitti’s Social
Action Party, want to follow Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s call
last week for clear positions on the conflict with Cambodia over the
Hindu temple of Preah Vihear. They don’t want to take the political risk
of losing the battle.

Abhisit and his Democrat Party have taken a clear – but wrong – stance on the issue from the beginning.
Indeed,
the party has been mistaken on the issue since it was in opposition. In
2008, it tagged along with the nationalist People’s Alliance for
Democracy (PAD) to exploit crude nationalism over Preah Vihear and
attack the governments of Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat.
After
Samak’s government supported Cambodia in listing the temple as a World
Heritage Site, the Democrats and the PAD accused Samak and his foreign
minister Noppadon Pattama of losing Thai territory and the chance to
reclaim Preah Vihear.
Abhisit made the accusation based on a
misinterpretation of the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s 1962
ruling on the Preah Vihear case. The court ruled the temple “was
situated in territory under the sovereignty of Cambodia”.
Abhisit
– as he argued in Parliament during a censure motion against Noppadon
in June 2008 – said the ICJ ruled only on the ruined sandstone temple,
while the territory on which it stood belonged to Thailand. Thus, for
Abhisit, any Cambodian activities in the area were violations of Thai
sovereignty.
Abhisit’s interpretation contradicted Thailand’s own
consistent stance since 1962, when a Thai Cabinet decision unilaterally
set the boundary at Preah Vihear to comply with the ICJ ruling.
In
fact, during the military-backed government under General Surayud
Chulanont and later under the elected governments of Samak and Somchai,
Thailand used the Cabinet-drawn line in dealing with Cambodia’s proposal
to list the temple.
Thailand’s legal team also used it in making
their argument in the recent ICJ trial, after Cambodia asked the court
to clarify the 1962 judgement and to instigate provisional measures to
have Thai troops withdraw from the disputed area.
Cambodia has
agreed, at least for now, to use that line as the Preah Vihear boundary
in its proposal for the temple’s listing and management. The land that
is disputed is not included in the management plan, but that did not
stop Abhisit from blocking Phnom Penh’s plan to run the temple as a
World Heritage Site. The premier accused Cambodia of taking Thai
territory as a buffer zone around Preah Vihear and asked the World
Heritage Committee to suspend its management plan.
Abhisit will
send Suwit, his minister of natural resources and the environment, to
derail Cambodia’s plans at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Paris
next week.
The move cornered Cambodia and offered Phnom Penh no
option but to bring the case back to the ICJ for a clarification of the
scope and meaning of the 1962 judgement. The court is currently
considering Cambodia’s request for a ban on Thai military activities at
the disputed area.
The decisions of both organisations are likely to be delivered around the same time, perhaps shortly after the Thai election.
Abhisit
called for other parties to make their stances clear in order to
relieve the political pressure mounting on him. In case Thailand loses
the court battle, Abhisit needs someone in the same boat- as well as
someone with a different stance to shift the blame to.

The Nation
Categories: Local News

COMMENTARY: The Big Lie Tactic of the Thai Government May be a Prelude to Renewed Armed Clashes with Cambodia

June 16, 2011 Leave a comment
The ill-willed fabrication by the Thai authorities, including the
Thai Prime Minister, concerning the arrest of three people, claimed to
be from Cambodia and one of whom is accused of being a “spy”, is a
groundless allegation aimed at misleading
the public and creating the pretext on which to justify aggression
against Cambodia in the future.
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is reported by ASTV Manager
Online and Thai-ASEAN News Network/ TAN (10 June 2011) as saying that
Thailand will file a complaint in this Cambodian spy case to the
International Court of Justice, and inflating the row by saying that the
three arrested are Cambodians.
The Royal Government of Cambodia, on the same day, through statements
by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the spokesperson of the Ministry
of National Defence rejected this baseless accusation by firmly and
clearly stressing that “Cambodia does not have any required necessity to
do what the Thai Prime Minister had exaggerated”.
This spying accusation against Cambodia is made deliberately while
Cambodia and Thailand are awaiting the interpretation of the 1962
Judgment of International Court of Justice, following the application by
Cambodia, together with a request for provisional measures to prevent
the Thai government from invading Cambodia and to withdraw its armed
forces unconditionally from Cambodian territory in the vicinity of the
Temple of Preah Vihear.
After returning from the International Court of Justice in the Hague,
on 2 June 2011, H.E. Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of
Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia, said that
Thai could attack Cambodia again at any time. This statement is a
message to inform the national and international public of the Thai’s
provocative design to invade Cambodia using its mysterious, secret,
unilaterally-drawn and not internationally recognized-map.
Clear aggression against Cambodian territorial sovereignty by
Thailand has occurred repeatedly. Furthermore, the present Thai’s
caretaker government issued a warning that “Thailand will reject any
injunctions by the International Court of Justice for the withdrawal of
its troops from the disputed border with Cambodia”.
According to the Statement of Cambodia’s Ministry of National Defense
of 3 June 2011, from 31 May to 3 June 2011, Thais had used an L-19
plane and a paraglider to spy on and heedlessly violate Cambodia’s
airspace along the border in the region of Thmor Pouk, and O Chrov of
Oddar Meanchey Province and Phnom Preuk district of Battambang Province.
These are deemed as provocations and a prelude to renewed armed
clashes, in which the Thai government has to bear responsibility in the
present and the future.
With bravado deemed a threat of war against Cambodia, Gen. Prawit
Wongsuwan, Thailand’s Defence Minister, is quoted in the Bangkok Post (5
June 2011) as saying that “Although ICJ asks Thailand to withdraw its
troops, it will not withdraw”.
This statement is in line with the foreign article which reads that “Thai could become the big brother of ASEAN”.
Mr. Supalak Ganjanakhundee, writer of The Nation Newspaper, in his
article published on 8 June 2011 under the title “Thailand cannot duck
World Court Verdict” puts forward the truth when he states that “The
possibilities for Thailand to defy an injunction or a verdict by the
International Court of Justice (ICJ) over the Preah Vihear case is very
low as the Court – the top judicial body of the United Nations – has
many instruments and tools to enforce its ruling.”
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and other senior Thai leaders have
often been known to blame journalists for misquoting, as happened in
this case when, according to the Post Today (8 June 2011), Gen. Prawit
Wongsuwan stated that “I did not say such a thing and this has been
interpreted by the journalists themselves”. It is unfair and a pity for
Thai journalists that their country’s leaders would twist what they have
said and put such blame on the others.
Threatening to use all means, military and diplomatic against
Cambodia, Thailand has since 2008 declared that Cambodia must leave the
4.6 sq km. and this accompanied by frequent shelling into Cambodian
territory has occurred. These acts of aggression normally take place
after the sabre-rattling warnings by the Thai leaders. It is widely
remembered that on 27 January 2011, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit
Vejjajiva announced that “the use of force will be the last resort……
Thai government is not afraid of war with Cambodia”.
Now similar utterances have been heard again by the followers of Thai
Prime Minister Abhisit’s. General Prayuth Chan-Ocha, Commander-In-Chief
of the Thai army, was quoted by the Bangkok Post on 9 June 2011 as
saying that “military measure or the use of force will also be resorted
to in order to protect Thailand’s territory.” In truth, it is not for
the protection of their territory but for the capture of Cambodian
territory based on its mysterious, secret, unilaterally-drawn and not
internationally recognized-map.
In contrast, the Royal Government of Cambodia’s efforts in addressing
the border dispute with Thailand have been legitimately made and are
based on the internationally-recognized Annex I (Dangrek) map. Moreover,
Cambodia firmly adheres to her stance that Cambodia has never accepted
any so-called overlapping 4.6-sq km. That area is de jure under
Cambodia’s sovereinty.
The Thai military’s aggressive attack towards Cambodia can be seen as
in support of two strategies of the leaders of Thai government. First,
to promote ultra-nationalism and territorial ambition based on
Thailand’s unilaterally-drawn and mysterious map, along the lines of the
acts of Fascist Hitler and dictatorial Mussolini of Italy during the
World War II period. Second, this act of aggression is wielded as part
of Thailand’s internal political crisis resulting from the
September-2006 coup to oust elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Some think that caretaker Prime Minister Abhisit may even hold Cambodia
hostage for his political purpose when realising what will be the result
of the upcoming election in Thailand. According to a survey, the Puea
Thai Party is leading, so Mr. Abhisit may seek a pretext to wage war
against Cambodia before or after the election so as to prolong his grip
on power and keep the Puea Thai Party out of government.
To pursue his ill intentions, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will
be not reluctant to invent new problems to put the blame on Cambodia. It
is noted that in the lead-up to World Heritage Committee meeting, the
Thai government has always created many new problems (particularly the
military issues) for which blame and oppose Cambodia, in order to
complicate the work of the World Heritage Committee and UNESCO as well
as to block the involvement of the international community.
In addition, the Thai government has, on seven occasions, refused to
accept the Terms of Reference for dispatching Indonesian observers to
the disputed border area, seemingly showing that Thailand intends to
grab this opportunity to renew war. However, many times already have the
caretaker government’s tricks been unmasked by the international
community, causing the diplomatic failure of the Thai government. 
One
such trick is the denial that Thai forces fired 414 artillery shells at
the Temple of Preah Vihear, by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, while
Mr. Suwit Khunkitti, Thai Minister for Natural Resources and
Environment, proudly told the meeting of the World Heritage Committee
that the Temple of Preah Vihear did not suffer damage. This is a bold
lie. Thailand is a big country that has aggressively violated Cambodia’s
territory, but Thailand has instead accused Cambodia of being an
aggressor.
Even though the Cambodia’s Temple of Preah Vihear was already
inscribed on the World Heritage List in Quebec, Canada in 2008, the Thai
Prime Minister and a number of Thai senior officials have continued to
complain about the inscription and have demanded a joint-inscription of
the Temple with Cambodia, despite the fact that Thailand is the
aggressor and the destroyer of the Temple of Preah Vihear. Witnessed by
the Chair of the World Heritage Committee meeting in Brazil, the leader
of theThai delegation signed an agreement with Cambodia to accept the
Management and Development Plan for the Preah Vihear Temple area to be
considered in the upcoming 35th Session of the World Heritage Committee,
to be held in France in late June. The Thai side has fabricated false
reports about that fact.
The Thai government should reconsider and change its attitude since
respecting international laws is the most important foundation to ensure
regional and global peace, and it is binding for Thailand.
The recent announcement of resorting to military means as Thai
goverment’s last option to resolve the border dispute with Cambodia and
the accusation of espionage against Cambodian citizen prove that this
caretaker government has been misleading public opinion and creating
many problems linked to Cambodia. Moreover, these actions could prove
that the Abhisit government only adheres to the policy of waging bloody
war and using tricks to invade Cambodia in order to retain its power.
However, the violation of international goodwill by Thailand could not
be whitewashed to conceal it from the international community.
Phnom Penh 15 June 2011
Press and Quick Reaction Unit
Categories: Local News

Let courts decide on ‘spy’: PM

June 16, 2011 Leave a comment
Prime Minister Hun Sen arrives at the University of Health Sciences for a
speech, in which he criticised Thai officials, yesterday in Phnom Penh. Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Prime Minister Hun Sen lashed out yesterday at the Thai leadership over
allegations that a Cambodian arrested in Thailand last week was a spy,
saying their rhetoric had shown disregard for judicial procedure.

Speaking
at a graduation ceremony of medical students in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen
said Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his foreign Minister,
Kasit Piromya, had repeated the claims against Ung Kimthai – a Cambodian
national arrested last week on suspicion of espionage.

“As long
as the court has not proceeded with its work, the person remains
innocent. The court has not yet worked on the case – why have you said
my people are guilty?” Hun Sen argued. “You are stupid, don’t do it.”

Ung
Kimthai, 46, was apprehended by Thai authorities on Tuesday last week
in Sisaket province, along with nationals from Vietnam and Thailand, on
allegations of espionage.

Allegations have also been raised against the Thai national for drunk driving and Ung Kimthai for drug use.

Hun
Sen also claimed yesterday that Kasit had expressed desire for a
prisoner exchange that could allow the return of two Thai activists who
are currently serving time at Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh for spying,
crossing illegally into Cambodia and entering into a military zone.

The premier dismissed talks of such a deal. “There is not any exchange,” Hun Sen said.

“Let the court do its work first – do you respect the independence of the court? You abused the court procedure.”

Thai
Patriot Network coordinator Veera Somkwamkid and his secretary, Ratree
Pipattanapaiboon, were sentenced to eight and six years, respectively,
in February.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said
yesterday that any questions about a possible prisoner exchange “assume
that the case reaches the court”.

He said Thai officials were concentrating on the preliminary stages of the legal process.

“After
the case is concluded by the police, they will forward it to the state
attorney and he will decide whether the case will be forwarded to the
court,” Panitan said. “The legal process has to be done first.”

He
mentioned, however, that there was a bilateral agreement in existance
between Thailand and Cambodia governing prisoner exchanges in cases that
are “similar”.

Panitan also said there had been an “ongoing
process of exchanging some of the prisoners in the past year or two”,
though he could not provide further detail.

 
Categories: Local News

Suwit set for talks with Phnom Penh

June 16, 2011 Leave a comment
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit
Khunkitti will hold an informal meeting with Cambodia tomorrow and on
Saturday to try and reach an agreement on the Preah Vihear management
plan.
Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the parties would try
to settle the dispute ahead of a 10-day World Heritage Committee (WHC)
meeting from Sunday in Paris that will consider the management plan for
the ancient temple proposed by Cambodia.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday held a meeting of the
national world heritage committee to discuss guidelines on the Preah
Vihear issue, Mr Panitan said. Mr Abhisit instructed the panel to think
of the national interest and keep the country from losing its
sovereignty and territory.
Mr Suwit yesterday said Thailand had a clear stance on the Preah
Vihear issue. It wants the WHC to postpone consideration of the
management plan for areas surrounding the World Heritage-listed site
until border demarcation work is completed.
He said he was unsure if the WHC would postpone considering
Cambodia’s insistence on its right to table the plan for the
4.6-square-kilometre disputed area around the temple.
Mr Suwit said Thailand would offer to host the next WHC meeting in Phuket.
He said claims by Cambodia that Prime Minister Abhisit had asked it
to withdraw Preah Vihear from the world heritage listing were untrue.
He said the Foreign Ministry would send a letter explaining the matter to Cambodian authorities.
The national world heritage committee will meet today to discuss prerequisites for the WHC meeting, Mr Suwit said.
He said other Unesco member countries would have a better
understanding about Thailand’s position on the plan after Thai
representatives had the opportunity to explain the matter.
Mr Abhisit also said that each side should respect the laws of the
other and avoid doing anything that could affect relations. He was
referring to reports Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to
arrest Thai officials that encroach on its soil and charge them with
spying, as Thailand has done.
Categories: Local News, Politic

Ban Ki-Moon hits back at tribunal criticism

June 16, 2011 Leave a comment
The office of United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon has defended
the embattled investigating judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in a
statement that drew criticism from local observers and lawyers at the
court.

The judges have come under fire in recent weeks from
victims, civil society groups and even their own staff for their
apparent failure to investigate the tribunal’s third case properly. The
likely dismissal of the case reflects the viewpoint of the Cambodian
government, which opposes prosecutions beyond the upcoming Case 002,
leading many to charge that Case 003 has been sabotaged for political
expediency.

In a statement released in New York on Tuesday, Ban’s
office rejected “media speculation” that the UN had directed the judges
to shutter Case 003 and denied that any political interference had
occurred in the case. A “closing order” – indictments or dismissals in
the case – will be available to public scrutiny at a later date, the
statement added.

“The judges and prosecutors at the Extraordinary
Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) must be allowed to function
free from external interference by the Royal Government of Cambodia, the
United Nations, donor States and civil society,” the statement read,
adding: “Speculating on the content of the Closing Order at this stage
does not assist the independent judicial process.”

However, local
observers said the statement was in fact cause for greater concern
about the tribunal, as the UN refused to acknowledge the abundance of
evidence that the Case 003 investigation has been mismanaged.

Co-investigating
judges Siegfried Blunk of Germany and You Bunleng of Cambodia announced
the conclusion of their Case 003 investigation in April, though without
taking a number of seemingly basic steps including the questioning of
the suspects involved and the examination of a number of alleged crime
sites.

Staff from the judges’ office have since begun resigning
in protest; in a resignation letter to Blunk last month, noted Khmer
Rouge-era historian Stephen Heder, formerly a consultant to the
investigating judges, spoke of the “toxic atmosphere” within their
office, saying it had become “professionally dysfunctional”. He added
that the judges had closed Case 003 “effectively without investigating
it”.

The judges last week rejected a series of requests from
international co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley calling for them to
investigate the case further, a decision Cayley has appealed.

In
the statement Tuesday, Ban’s office cited the confidentiality of the
investigation and said the investigating judges “are not under an
obligation to provide reasons for their actions at this stage of the
investigation in Case 003”.

But Anne Heindel, a legal adviser at
the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, called this an erroneous reading
of court rules and said the UN was “hiding behind a cloak of
confidentiality”.

“As an institution, the UN is trying to protect
the integrity of the court by denying that there are any problems, and
it’s too late for that,” she said. “They need to acknowledge that action
needs to be taken to save this investigation or it could undermine the
entire work of the court.”

Clair Duffy, a trial monitor with the
Open Society Justice Initiative, said UN officials were “ignoring all of
the evidence they now have before them, including from people inside
the court with knowledge of what’s going on”.

“To pretend that
this is a matter of speculation at this point ignores the wealth of
available evidence that no serious investigative action was ever
undertaken in relation to the 003 suspects,” she said.

The
suspects in Case 003 remain officially confidential, though court
documents reveal them as former KR navy commander Meas Mut and air force
commander Sou Met.

Lawyers for former Khmer Rouge Brother No 2
Nuon Chea, set to stand trial later this month in the court’s second
case, also took issue with the UN statement, which referred to their
client as one of “the four remaining leaders of the Khmer Rouge”.

This
statement, the defence team said, presupposes both Nuon Chea’s guilt
and the fact that he and the other Case 002 suspects “are the only
‘leaders’ of the Khmer Rouge still alive”.

Whether the Case 003
suspects also fall into this category “is a matter which is currently
the subject of litigation before the ECCC”, the defence team said.

Categories: Khmer Rouge, Local News

Thailand stands firm; Preah Vihear management plan should be deferred

June 16, 2011 Leave a comment
BANGKOK, June 15 – Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Wednesday reasserted Thailand’s stance that consideration of Cambodia’s proposed management plan of the area surrounding the ancient Hindu temple of Preah Vihear should be deferred by the upcoming UNESCO World Heritage Committee (WHC) meeting in Paris.

The Thai prime minister stood firm as the Thai delegation, scheduled to depart Bangkok for the World Heritage Committee meeting in the French capital this weekend, reported the Thai position over the matter to a special meeting of the Cabinet on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr Abhisit said Thailand’s position is that consideration of Cambodia’s management plan of the area surrounding Preah Vihear temple should be deferred, but Thailand stands ready to jointly consider it with Cambodia on the condition that Cambodia must withdraw its troops from the contested land first.

Following reported remarks by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen that any Thai official intruding Cambodian territory will be arrested, Mr Abhisit said that law of each country must be respected and refrain from doing thing that will adversely affect bilateral relations.

Thai Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Suwit Khunkitti, as head of the Thai delegation in the 35th session from June 19-29, and his team is set to leave Bangkok for Paris on Friday.

Discussion of the Cambodian plan was deferred last year at the WHC meeting in Brazil after Thailand strongly opposed it, citing the unresolved border dispute.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia.

The site of the historic structure on the disputed Thai-Cambodian border has long been a point of contention between the two Asian neighbours.

On July 7, 2008, Preah Vihear temple was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Under the terms of the listing, Cambodia is required to submit a management plan for WHC approval. (MCOT online news)

Categories: Local News

United Nations Rejects ‘Media Speculation’ that Judges Received Instructions to Dismiss Case before ECCC

June 16, 2011 Leave a comment
AKP Phnom Penh, June 15, 2011–Following is the full text of the statement by UN Secretary General on ECCC:


Categories: Local News

NGOs in Final Bid to Change Controversial Draft Law

June 16, 2011 Leave a comment
Photo: VOA NEWS

International and local organizations met over a conference call on Tuesday in a final effort to push for changes to a controversial draft law to regulate the NGO sector before it moves to the next stage of approval.

The groups say they want changes to a third draft of the law, which they fear will hamper their development efforts and leave them open to government interference.


The law is expected to move from the draft stage at the Ministry of Interior for approval by the Council of Ministers in the near future.

In a conference call organized by Washington-based Oxfam America on Tuesday, representatives from a number of organization expressed continued reservations over the law, which many said would weaken civic and social development.
“A country trying to develop without a strong civil society is like trying to ride a bicycle with just one wheel,” Nora O’Connell, a director of policy at Save the Children, said. “You may be able to push it along the road, but it will take a lot longer. You need both government and civil society working together to make real progress.”
Bill Penington, Cambodia’s assistant country director for Care International, said the law would slow down development by impeding the work of organizations.
Such concerns have been echoed by the US State Department officials, who say the new law could be unnecessary and restrict the work of NGOs.
Interior Ministry officials have defended the law as necessary to regulate a growing sector and have dismissed concerns it could be abused.
But critics say the law contains complicated requirements for registration and reporting to the Ministry of Interior, while at the same time it potentially prevents smaller grassroots organizations from forming. The law, they say, could be abused to shut down organizations or associations that are at odds with the government.
Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, a program manager for Freedom House, called the draft law “draconian” and “ambiguous.”
A rights group or other watchdog is “generally going to be critical of the government whether it’s Cambodia or whether it’s the US,” she said.
The law as currently drafted could lead to an organization being shut down, she said. “So this is a significant barrier, not just to the freedom of association as a fundamental principle, but also for the freedom of expression.”
While the organizations say they want the government to redraft the law, there are some who say it should not be necessary at all, given other laws already on the books.
“Things like the civil code, the constitution and also the current laws, actually cover every aspect,” said Brian Lund, East Asia director for Oxfam America.
The government estimates 3,000 non-governmental organizations, either international or local, operate in Cambodia.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the law will “protect the interests of civil society.”

VOA News

Categories: Local News

In Cambodia, Comedians Double as Government Propagandists

June 16, 2011 Leave a comment
In the state-aligned media that dominates the country’s airwaves, enormously popular comedians, often bearing the rank of colonel in the prime minister’s personal bodyguard unit, inject the party line into Cambodian popular culture.

CAMBODIA’S PROPAGANDIST COMEDIANS

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — One recent Sunday afternoon, television audiences across Cambodia watched a middle-aged man named Krem as he was introduced to the mother of his young girlfriend.

The mother, Oeurn, looked dubiously at her daughter’s poorly dressed, extravagantly mustachioed suitor.

“How did you spend the Cambodian New Year?” Oeurn asked him.

“I went to Preah Vihear,” Krem replied, referring to a contested 11th century temple on the Thai border that has sparked several skirmishes between Cambodian and Thai forces over the past few years. “We performed comedy for the soldiers who protect us from Thai invasion. I would like to ask the New Year’s angel to protect our soldiers and let them defeat the enemy.”

A bit later, Krem abruptly announced to Oeurn, “Phnom Penh municipality now has less garbage and is cleaner. Do you know who did that?”

“Who?”

“It is because of Excellency Kep Chuktema, the governor. He has educated people and broadcast it on television not to litter, so now there is less garbage and no more bad smell.”

It might not be precisely how every Cambodian villager addresses his prospective mother-in-law, but the exchange was par for the course on Bayon TV, where Krem’s wildly popular comedy troupe performs a similar sketch every week, with goofy domestic scenarios routinely breaking into extravagant praise for government policy or officials aligned with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. The propaganda became even more pointed in late April, during 13 days of deadly border clashes with Thai forces.

Bayon, owned by the daughter of Cambodia’s strongman prime minister, Hun Sen, is not alone: this kind of politicized comedy is shown on all of the country’s eight television stations — performed by comedians who, frequently, are also paid members of Hun Sen’s personal bodyguard unit. Many of the comedians bear the rank of colonel or lieutenant colonel.

The country’s dozens of “colonel comedians” underscore the extent to which Hun Sen and his CPP have consolidated power over the past two decades, successfully marginalizing not just rival politicians but also dissenting artistic and cultural voices.

“It is further evidence of the deep reach of Hun Sen’s personal networks of loyalties, and the growing difficulty of doing opposition politics in Cambodia,” said Duncan McCargo, a professor of Southeast Asian politics at the University of Leeds.

In 1997, Hun Sen — who then served as co-prime minister in a coalition government with a royalist political party, Funcinpec — staged a bloody coup, ousting his counterpart, Prince Norodom Ranariddh. Although Ranariddh was eventually allowed to return, Funcinpec suffered heavy losses in subsequent elections and never recovered. More recently, in 2009 and 2010, the government filed two separate lawsuits against Sam Rainsy, a liberal politician popular among urbanites and expatriate Cambodians. Rainsy, who had emerged as the new leader of the opposition, was ultimately sentenced to a total of 12 years in prison, leaving him in de facto exile in France. And over the past few years, the government has systematically sued activists, journalists, and critics of every ilk, levying steep fines or jail terms (one man was sentenced to two years for suggesting that a new lighting system at Angkor Wat could harm the 12th-century temple).

Although most of the colonel comedians’ skits and sketches are only sporadically political, they sometimes venture into deeper ideological waters. In 2009, after U.S. Ambassador Carol Rodley infuriated the government with a speech on corruption, both Krem and his equally famous counterpart Koy launched a series of comedy routines that bitingly mocked international NGOs for their own corruption problems. 


Categories: Local News

No spy exchange with Thailand: Cambodian PM

June 15, 2011 Leave a comment


PHNOM PENH –
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that there will be
impossible to exchange the two Thai “Yellow Shirt” activists being
jailed in Cambodia with a recently arrested Cambodian by Thailand.

“It’s absolutely no way to exchange the two
Thai activists with the arrested Cambodian,” he told a graduation
ceremony at the Technical School of Medicine. “Thailand can proceed the
case of the arrested Cambodian man according to Thai legal system.”

The premier’s remarks came after Thai foreign
minister Kasit Piromya said on Saturday that the Thai government is
willing to exchange the arrested Cambodian and the Vietnamese with two
Thai ” Yellow Shirt” activists now detained in Cambodia on espionage
charges.

Cambodian court, on February 1, convicted
Veera Somkwamkid, a high- profile activist in the Thailand Patriot
Network, and his secretary Ratree Pipatanapaiboon of illegal entry,
unlawful entry into military base and espionage and sentenced them to 8
years and 6 years in jail respectively. 

On Tuesday last week, Thai police and
paramilitary soldiers arrested three men: a Thai national Suchart
Muhammad, 32, Ung Kimtai, 43 from Cambodia, and Wiang Tengyang, 37 from
Vietnam for “spying” along the Thai-Cambodian border in Si Sa Ket
province.

Also Read: Cambodia Slams Thailand over Spying Claim

Hun Sen reiterated that the “spy” arrest was “fabricated”.

Cambodia and Thailand has border conflict
just a week after Cambodia’s Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as a World
Heritage Site on July 7, 2008.

Thailand claims the ownership of 4.6 square kilometers of scrub next to the temple.

Since then, both sides have built up
military forces along the border and periodic clashes have happened,
resulted in the deaths of troops and civilians on both sides.


Categories: Local News