Archive for June 2009
AP/ 29 June 2009
Phnom Penh(Cambodia) - One of the few survivors of the Khmer Rouge’s deadliest torture centre gave a long-awaited testimony on Monday, weeping as he recounted life at the facility where 16,000 others were tortured before execution.
Mr Vann Nath, 63, escaped execution because he was an artist and took the job of painting and sculpting portraits of the Khmer Rouge’s late leader, Pol Pot. His special status did not spare him misery.
‘The conditions were so inhumane and the food was so little,’ Mr Vann Nath told the tribunal, tears streaming down his face. ‘I even thought eating human flesh would be a good meal.’
Mr Vann Nath said he was fed twice a day, each meal consisting of three teaspoons of rice porridge. Prisoners were kept shackled and ordered not to speak or move.
‘We were so hungry, we would eat insects that dropped from the ceiling,’ Mr Vann Nath said. ‘We would quickly grab and eat them so we could avoid being seen by the guards.’
‘We ate our meals next to dead bodies, and we didn’t care because we were like animals,’ he added.
The testimony came at the trial of Kaing Guek Eav – better known as Duch, who headed the S-21 prison in Phnom Penh from 1975-1979. Up to 16,000 men, women and children were tortured under his command and later taken away to be killed. Only about a dozen people, including Mr Vann Nath, are thought to have survived, most of whom have since died. Two other survivors are scheduled to testify this week.
Duch is the first senior Khmer Rouge figure to face trial and the only one to acknowledge responsibility for his actions. Senior leaders Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Ieng Sary’s wife, Ieng Thirith, are all detained and likely to face trial in the next year or two.
Duch, 66, sat silently and watched Mr Vann Nath impassively as he spoke. Duch is charged with crimes against humanity and is the first of five defendants scheduled for long-delayed trials by the UN-assisted tribunal.
Duch has previously testified that being sent to S-21 was tantamount to a death sentence and that he was only following orders to save his own life.
Mr Vann Nath said he was arrested Dec 30, 1977, from his home in north-western Battambang province where he worked as a rice farmer.
He was accused of trying to overthrow the Khmer Rouge and of being an enemy of the regime – a common accusation against prisoners. He arrived at S-21 on Jan 7, 1978, and was kept there until the regime collapsed about one year later.
Justice Minister Peerapan Saleerathawipak said on Monday that former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra may not be entitled to get a royal pardon.
He said that in practice a person to seek a royal pardon must be a convict who must have served some time in prison in the country.
Mr Peerapan said there has never been a precedent of the people signing up a petition to request for a royal pardon for anyone before. He said there is not a law that fixed criteria for authorities to follow because it is the King’s power whether or not to pardon individual convicts.
He said in most cases, it is the convicts themselves or their relatives that lodge the petition.
Usually, a convict entitled to be pardoned must have served time in the country. In Thaksin’s case, the former prime minister is abroad and has never been imprisoned in the country, making it even more unlikely for him to seek a royal pardon.
The justice minister said the Corrections Department should be the agency to make this matter clear.
REUTERS/27 June 2009
Phnom Penh - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen met behind closed doors with Thailand’s deputy premier on Saturday as diplomatic tensions mounted over a 900-year-old temple that sits on the border between the two countries.
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva sent his right-hand man, Suthep Thaugsuban, to meet Hun Sen to explain why Thailand was challenging a U.N. decision to make the Preah Vihear temple a world heritage site under the sole jurisdiction of Cambodia.
Thailand wants joint development and supervision of the Hindu temple perched on an escarpment that forms a natural border between the Southeast Asian neighbours and could one day be a lucrative tourist site.
Thailand’s latest questioning of the temple’s status has angered Phnom Penh, and both sides have sent more troops to the disputed area around Preah Vihear.
Reporters were kept away from Saturday’s two-hour meeting on the outskirts of Phnom Penh and officials from both governments would not comment on the subject of the talks.
Mr Hun Sen had earlier said Preah Vihear was not up for discussion and on Friday told local television that Suthep was welcome ‘to raise the issue of withdrawing Thai troops from the border’.
In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Abhisit blamed the border tensions on UNESCO for ‘trying to register and manage the area when the process of demarcation hasn’t been completed’.
The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962, but the ruling did not determine the ownership of 4.6 sq km of land next to the ruins, leaving considerable scope for disagreement.
AFP/ 27 June 2009
Phnom Penh - Cambodia’s health minister on Saturday announced the country’s first domestic case of swine flu, days after its first infections were reported among visiting American students.
One Cambodian national and one Filipino traveller had tested positive for the A(H1N1) virus, Mam Bun Heng told AFP, bringing the country’s toll to six.
‘(They) are now being taken good care of at hospital and are getting better,’ he told AFP on Saturday.
‘We are working hard to… prevent more domestic infections within our country,’ he added.
Four US students on a school trip in Cambodia were confirmed this week as the country’s first cases of the virus.
Globally, the World Health Organization says nearly 60,000 cases of the disease have now been recorded, with 263 deaths.
AFP/ 27 June 2009
YALA – A Thai soldier, a policeman and a suspected Muslim militant were killed in an early morning clash in the kingdom’s troubled south on Saturday, police said.
They said about 200 officers and soldiers sealed off a house after villagers tipped them off about a building where separatist militants were staying in the Bannang Sata district of Yala province.
Militants inside the house opened fire on security forces as they stormed the building, killing one soldier and a policeman, police said, while a man was shot dead as he tried to escape.
An unknown number of men remain inside the house while security forces continue to surround it, police added.
Violence in Thailand’s deep south has spiked in recent weeks, with masked gunmen killing 11 worshippers in a mosque earlier this month in Narathiwat province – one of the worst attacks in the past five years of insurgency.
Thai police have announced a 5,900-dollar reward for leads on the attack, which wounded another 12 people as they attended evening prayers.
More than 3,700 people have died since early 2004 in the mostly ethnic Malay provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.
The southern region was an autonomous Malay Muslim sultanate until Thailand annexed it in 1902, provoking decades of tension.
AFP/ 27 june 2009
Bangkok – Thailand’s government vowed to get tough with protesters loyal to fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra on Saturday, as the capital braced for the biggest rally since bloody riots two months ago.
Bangkok police said more than 3,000 officers and 1,000 soldiers would be on hand to guard government offices, as they predicted up to 50,000 Thaksin loyalists could gather in the capital’s historic quarter from 4pm (0900 GMT, 5pm Singapore time).
Deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who travelled to Cambodia Saturday, said he had drafted a document to invoke an internal security law that gives more power to the army in case the rally turns sour.
But he said that the national police chief would oversee the situation for now and ensure the protesters did not block access to government offices.
‘The government will decisively enforce the law. We will make sure that all government buildings are not sealed off,’ Suthep, in charge of domestic security, said.
Major General Suporn Phansua told AFP that police estimated 30,000 to 50,000 protesters, mostly from Bangkok and surrounding provinces, would show.
The group, known as ‘Red Shirts’ because of the colour they wear, said they would stay at the site until dawn on Sunday to demand that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva dissolves the House and calls fresh elections.
The Red Shirts stormed a key Asian summit on the Thai coast on April 11, forcing its cancellation, before rampaging through the capital, leaving two people dead and 123 injured, and prompting Mr Abhisit to declare emergency rule.
Protesters clashed with security forces in Bangkok over two days but finally dispersed after troops surrounded them and threatened to move them by force.
British-born Abhisit is currently on an official visit to China and due to return late on Saturday.
Since Thaksin’s ouster in a coup in 2006, Thai society has been deeply split between his supporters among the largely rural poor and the powerful Bangkok cliques in the palace, military and bureaucracy.
Thaksin, currently living in Dubai to escape a jail sentence for corruption, is due to telephone Saturday’s rally in the evening. He has made repeated addresses to his grassroots supporters in the kingdom’s northeast in recent months, telling them he is homesick and wants to return to work in Thailand.
By Kok Sap -26 June 2009
Besides being a doing better member in economic in the ASEAN sphere, Thailand has miserably failed to uphold and up lift human dignity. It has become a lightning rod for the insecure and disharmonious ASEAN goal. From its 227 year history and at the whim of Siam’s Chakri ruling family, Siam has continuously and pervasively viewed Cambodia and its people as a lesser equal.
Given facts in war history, Cambodia has endured the death threshold and Hell Gate for the past centuries. For now, Cambodia is different and determined to survive at all cost and no matter what.
All can see after it’s failed to host the scheduled ASEAN Summit couple months ago, Bangkok has incessantly picked fights over Preah Vihear under its disguise of domestic political turmoil and socialist class struggles under the stare of modern democracy and human rights. It is uncivil of Bangkok to see no equal in justice for others.
Few days ago, Bangkok Post illogical brain, has ineptly accused the World Heritage Committee of colluding with Cambodia to list Preah Vihear with World Heritage Site without its approval. Thailand has ranted and stepped on too many toes in regarding to Cambodia’s individuality.
Before the UNESCO accepted Preah Vihear inscription, in record, Cambodia did ask and receive support from the previous governments respectively. But up to last year; the Yellowed Prem lackey government, under PM Abhisit, had chastised and rescinded the signed Communiqué and 2000 Memorandum of Understanding which Thailand agreed for Cambodia proposal to inscribe Preah Vihear with World Heritage Committee days before UNESCO held its annual meeting in Canada.
During the 70′s, General Prem was a pointed contact for the armed operatives along borderlines with Cambodia. Then when he was handpicked by Bhumibol for Prime Minister Job, he had secretly funded and armed many Khmer refugees living in Aranya Prathet camps and others to infiltrate and scout intelligence inside Democratic Kampuchea border. Most of General Prem private ex-armed scouts are now living abroad and can attest to how an evil doer General Prem was.
Presently UNESCO is honoring Preah Vihear under Cambodia ownership alone as the heritage site for world humanity. Now Preah Vihear matter, a purely Cambodia agenda, has enraged Bangkok leaders to misbehave and badger UNESCO officials at meeting in Spain.
Given Thailand insane bully records, otherwise, categorically the 1904-1907 maps was not the best interest of Cambodia. It’s done without Cambodia indulgence. Besides Cambodia have rights to take Siam to world court over its land beyond Preah Vihear locality. Historically and anthropologically Cambodia possesses facts to prove like its claim as it did so in 1962 Preah Vihear case at Hague Court.
In effect of international laws, again Cambodia shall challenge Thailand in court over its genocidal crimes committed on high plateau Khmer struggles during General Tak Sin and his best buddy General Thong Duang later turned his killer and Cambodia generational enemy.
Nonetheless, Cambodia humbly accepted and did not demand Thailand to compensate and return all of its properties prior to 1962 Court rulings.
Most vivid and gruesome act against humanity in 1979 under Kriengsak -Prem government, Siam herded and dumped 43,000-47,000 Khmer refugees to die at Preah Vihear site.
As one of the signatories, Thailand has habitually disregarded and flagrantly violated the 1962 International Court of Justice, the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention, the 1945 Universal Human Right charter and the 1991 Paris Peace Accord.
In records show Thailand abuses refugees from following countries: Cambodia, Viet Nam, Laos, and Burma. The most recent that caught the world eyes was Thailand military abused Rohimsa and Hmong refugees. It’s all well and understood why Yala-Pattani ethnic religious minority fights hard to separate from Bangkok axis of evil.
The legal ground is swelling against Chakri family and its appointed government. More people of Siam origin begin to see Bangkok evil doers and evil doings.
Yet no shame, Siam aka Thailand continues to cry over the spilled milk and have a nerve to accuse UNESCO of wrong doing in accepting Preah Vihear nomination from Cambodia as world heritage site. Obviously it seems to forget the world has gone round and round and what goes up must comes down tumbling according Isaac Newton gravity law. Gradually the ugly truth reveals to the world on the ruling family and its underlinks.
According to UNESCO’s Cultural Landscapes definition:
- (6): Cultural landscapes are cultural properties and represent the “combined works of nature and of man” designated in Article 1 of the Convention. They are illustrative of the evolution of human society and settlement over time, under the influence of the physical constraints and/or opportunities presented by their natural environment and of successive social, economic and cultural forces, both external and internal,
- (7) They should be selected on the basis both of their outstanding universal value and of their representativity in terms of a clearly defined geo-cultural region and also for their capacity to illustrate the essential and distinct cultural elements of such regions,
- (8) The term “cultural landscape” embraces a diversity of manifestations of the interaction between humankind and its natural environment, and
- (10) Definition & Categories (i) The most easily identifiable is the clearly defined landscape designed and created intentionally by man. This embraces garden and parkland landscapes constructed for aesthetic reasons which are often (but not always) associated with religious or other monumental buildings and ensembles and (iii) The final category is the associative cultural landscape. The inscription of such landscapes on the World Heritage List is justifiable by virtue of the powerful religious, artistic or cultural associations of the natural element rather than material cultural evidence, which may be insignificant or even absent. Thus Cambodia has done no wrong and the answer is NO to Bangkok Post opinion.
So in short, Preah Vihear criteria fits ICOMOS categories and is in compliance with above cited UNESCO regulations. For the interest of ASEAN charter spirit and harmony of 2015 goal and UNESCO, Thailand ought to be not too bully but to the least be respectful, if not helpful, to Cambodia internal affairs and World Heritage Site interests.
To date Thailand and its paid press keeps instigating a full scale war with Cambodia. This is not to settle score over Preah Vihear inscription with World Heritage Site but to show the hind side of Siam long overdue hypocrisy.
This remains to see if the world continued to turn its blind eye toward Thailand characteristically ploy in blaming the dog in order to kill the dog. But for Cambodia rights and dignity, Thailand shall beware of the cornered dog reaction.
The Nation/26 June 2009
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva insisted Friday that Thailand’s opposition to UNESCO’s listing of Preah Vihear Temple as World Heritage Site has nothing to do with Cambodia.
Speaking from Beijng, Abhisit said that the case is a matter between Thailand and UNESCO.The Thai premier was on his second day of his four-day visit to Beijing on Friday.
Abhisit has assigned his deputy; Suthep Thuangsuban to travel to Phnom Penh on Saturday to talk about the matter. Cambodia’s premier Hun Sen said Thursday that Suthep’s mission was not necessary if it focused on UNESCO’s listing of the temple.
“Thailand’s opposition to the listing will not affect Thai and Cambodia relations,” Abhisit said.
The UNESCO agreed to register the temple as a World Heritage Site under the aegis of Cambodia in July last year.
Suthep Thaugsuban said Friday he would go to Cambodia on Saturday as planned on a mission to clarify to Khmer Premier Hun Sen Thailand’s opposition to the listing of the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site.
The deputy prime minister said his trip will not be postponed or cancelled as the visit would focus on the Preah Vihear temple issue as well as aim to strengthen bilateral ties between Thailand and Cambodia. He said his trip was aimed at solving any misunderstanding between the countries. His visit would definitely not escalate the conflict between both countries.
Abhisit said earlier Thailand will ask Unesco to review its July 2008 decision to register Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site when the panel met earlier this week in Spain.
He would also propose that the temple be registered jointly as a World Heritage Site by Thailand and Cambodia, not unilaterally by Cambodia.
AFP/26 June 2009
Bangkok – Thailand’s deputy prime minister said Friday he would steer clear of a dispute over an ancient temple on the Cambodian border when he meets the neighbouring country’s leader this weekend.
Troops from both sides have built up on the frontier in recent days near the the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, where seven soldiers have died in clashes since tensions flared last year.
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said he is sending his deputy, Suthep Thaugsuban, to Phnom Penh on Saturday to explain Thailand’s decision to ask world heritage body Unesco to reconsider listing the temple.
But following a warning by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen that Thailand must respect his country’s sovereignty, Suthep said he would now avoid the issue.
‘I will not discuss any topic that could trigger conflict,’ Mr Suthep told reporters in Bangkok. ‘But do not jump to conclusions that my mission will not achieve anything. I am confident that bilateral talks will enhance a better understanding that Thailand will treat its neighbours cordially,’ he said.
Mr Hun Sen vowed on Thursday to take a hard stance on the dispute over the temple, the ownership of which was awarded to Cambodia by the World Court in 1962, sparking decades of tensions.
Unrest flared in July 2008 after Unesco granted world heritage status to the ancient Khmer temple with its crumbling stone staircases and elegant carvings.
Thai army chief General Anupong Paojinda said on Friday that troops from both sides wanted to avoid clashes and were regularly speaking to each other to ease tensions.
‘We will not be the first to start fighting,’ Gen. Anupong told reporters. ‘The local commander told me the situation is still calm. Forces from both countries deployed at the temple are constantly in contact with each other and there is no indication that it could lead to confrontation.’
The Thai government will protest the listing of Preah Vihear at a UNESCO meeting which is continuing in Seville, Spain until June 30.
REUTERS/26 June 2009
Bangkok – Rights group Amnesty International urged Thailand on Friday to open the trial of a political campaigner charged with insulting the monarchy after it was closed for reasons of ‘national security’.
Amnesty said the court’s decision to bar the media and public from attending the trial of Darunee Charnchoengsilpakul, a ‘red shirt’ supporter of ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, could jeopardise her chances of receiving a fair hearing.
Darunee, 46, also known as ‘Da Torpedo”, was arrested and charged with lese-majeste last July after delivering an exceptionally strong speech on the 2006 coup that ousted Thaksin.
‘When a judge closes the doors on a trial it significantly raises the risk of injustice taking place,’ Amnesty’s Asia-Pacific director, Sam Zarifi, said in a statement. ‘The Thai government will have a very difficult time explaining why the trial of someone charged with making an insulting remark could compromise Thailand’s national security.
‘In this case, a fair trial means that the doors should remain open,’ Mr Zarifi said.
On Tuesday, Judge Prommas Phoo-sang ordered journalists and Darunee’s supporters to leave the courtroom in Bangkok’s Criminal Court because her case was a ‘matter of national security’.
In an emotional response to the ruling, Darunee she could not be guaranteed justice if the public were barred from attending. Her lawyer has filed an appeal.
The trial, which resumes on July 28, is the latest in a slew of lese-majeste cases critics say are stifling dissent and freedom of speech.
Lese-majeste, or insulting the monarchy, is a very serious offence in Thailand, where many people regard 81-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej as semi-divine and above politics. It is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Judge Prommas said he had no comment on the Amnesty statement, but stood by his decision to close the trial. ‘One thing I can say, I am impartial,’ he told Reuters.