Archive for August 2009
PhnomPenhPost/25 August 2009 by Meas Sokchea
Man whose name appeared on leaflets has fled to border: nephew.
Police have yet to identify the producers of leaflets that characterised Prime Minister Hun Sen as a corrupt “puppet of Vietnam”, Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth told the Post Monday, adding that officers would not assume that those whose names were on the leaflets were behind the fliers.
Hundreds of leaflets accusing Hun Sen of damaging the prestige of Khmer culture were distributed through the streets of the capital early Wednesday morning.
Kem Sopheak, whose name appeared along with four others on the leaflets, has denied any involvement in their production. He told the Post last week that he had gone into hiding, and he could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Referring to Kem Sopheak, Touch Naruth, who is heading the investigation, said: “If he has not done anything, then he should not be afraid. We can’t detain anyone without clear proof. We have to investigate it first. Like always, we have to do our research.”
Touch Naruth called on Kem Sopheak, who said last week that he was a Sam Rainsy Party activist, to meet with authorities to clarify his position, adding that any attempt to remain in hiding would suggest that he was involved.
“If he said he has not done this, and then he tries to escape, that means he’s guilty,” he said.
A man who identified himself as a nephew of Khem Sopheak named Samnang, said Monday that his uncle had fled to the Cambodian-Thai border.
“If he calls me again I will tell him to clarify with the police, but it’s up to him,” Samnang said.
AFP/25 August 2009
Hanoi – Viet Nam will ban smoking in indoor public places next year and raise tobacco taxes to curb demand for cigarettes, the government said in a statement seen on Tuesday.
Smoking will be illegal in schools, kindergartens, cinemas, office buildings and on public transport, said a statement posted on the government’s website.
The statement did not say whether indoor restaurants would be included in the ban, which will take effect on Jan 1.
Tariffs on tobacco products and imported cigarettes will be raised, but the government did not specify by how much.
Retail sales of cigarettes will be allowed only in certain locations and a ban on selling cigarettes to people under 18 will be more rigorously applied, the government said.
Cigarette-smoking is widespread in Vietnam, which has one of the world’s highest male smoking rates and where cigarettes are widely available at small streetside kiosks.
Men in rural areas also like to relax with large traditional pipes made of bamboo filled with strong tobacco.
Advertising for tobacco is banned in public places in the communist nation of about 86 million people.
Narathiwat (Thailand) – A powerful car bomb ripped through a restaurant packed with government officials in Thailand’s troubled Muslim-majority south on Tuesday, wounding at least 42 people, the army said.
The blast was one of the most serious for months in the kingdom’s insurgency-plagued provinces bordering Malaysia where a bloody separatist rebellion has been raging for more than five years.
The 50-kilogram (110-pound) device was hidden inside a stolen Toyota pick-up truck and exploded during the busy lunch hour in the centre of Narathiwat, the main town in the province of the same name, officials said.
‘It’s very horrible. We had intelligence that militants would mount a large-scale attack,’ Lieutenant General Pichet Wisaichorn, the southern region army commander, told reporters.
He said that seven of the 42 people injured in the blast were in a critical condition. Most of the wounded were Buddhist government officials, who are often targeted by the Islamist militants in the region.
Police and rescue workers were rushing the wounded to hospital and the local government chief was among those injured, a policeman said on condition of anonymity.
More than 3,700 people have been killed and thousands more injured since the insurgency erupted in 2004, led by shadowy insurgents who have never publicly stated their goals. The south has seen a recent upsurge in attacks, many of which involve shootings of Buddhists and Muslims alike. There have also been gruesome killings such as crucifixions and beheadings.
Gunmen stormed a mosque in Narathiwat province in June, killing 11 people as they held evening prayers. The army blamed separatist militants but villagers said security forces were responsible.
While there were no immediate reports of deaths in Tuesday’s attack, it was the biggest bomb attack in the south since twin blasts killed one person and wounded 70 in Narathiwat in November.
Thailand’s four southernmost provinces made up an autonomous Malay Muslim sultanate until the region was annexed by predominantly Buddhist Thailand in 1902, sparking decades of tension.
AP/25 August 2009
Bangkok – T’ai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva invoked special security powers on Tuesday ahead of a major anti-government rally this weekend that he warned could turn chaotic and plunge the country back into turmoil. Mr Abhisit told reporters his Cabinet approved the use of the stringent Internal Security Act from Saturday until Sept 1 in the Bangkok district surrounding his office, where anti-government protesters plan to rally on Sunday. Supporters of deposed fugitive leader Thaksin Shinawatra have called for the protest outside Government House, the prime minister’s office, to demand Mr Abhisit’s resignation. Thaksin was deposed in a 2006 coup but remains at the centre of a protracted political crisis that has been calm in recent months but the government fears is heating up. ‘The political situation from Aug 30 onward may turn chaotic,’ Mr Abhisit said in the order issued by the Internal Security Operations Command, which said some protesters plan to ‘besiege Government House to interrupt the work of the prime minister’. The Internal Security Act allows security forces to impose curfews and restrict freedom of movement in situations deemed harmful to national security. The protest will be the first major rally outside Government House since April, when Thaksin supporters gathered outside the prime minister’s office and riots erupted in downtown Bangkok that left two dead and more than 120 injured. Protest organisers say their goal is to keep Sunday’s protest peaceful. ‘We plan to gather for a day and disperse peacefully unless security forces crack down on us,’ said Mr Jatuporn Phromphan, a protest leader. He said protesters will reiterate demands for Mr Abhisit to dissolve Parliament and call fresh elections, adding if their calls are ignored, ‘We will step up pressure.’ Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who seldom comments on the political turmoil, called for unity on Friday. ‘Currently, our country is a mess,’ King Bhumibol told a televised gathering of civil servants. ‘I am concerned that Thailand is sinking.’ ‘In the recent past, I felt that the country was on the verge of failure,’ the king said. He added, ‘If everyone uses their knowledge and willingness, we can bring progress to the country. I ask that you help one another accomplish the task.’
PhnomPenhPost/4 August 2009 by Heng Chivoan
Representatives from 108 families meet with publisher Soy Sopheap in front of Deum Ampil newspaper office on Monday after travelling from Poipet to protest losing their land to a developer. The company was awarded the land after claiming only 14 families lived in the area, not 108. Soy Sopheap agreed to travel to the village and meet with company officials next Monday.
PhnomPenhPost/4 August 2009 by Cheang Sokha
Government disputes Thai argument that planned market reconstruction violates bilateral agreements.
Cambodian officials have rejected Thai government claims that the reconstruction of a market at the foot of Preah Vihear temple violates a border agreement signed by the two countries, saying the project has nothing to do with the continuing standoff over contested territory.
Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said that the reconstruction of the market – which Cambodia says was destroyed by Thai rocket fire during border clashes in April – was merely intended to provide housing to 319 vendor families made homeless by the incident.
“Thailand’s claims are groundless,” he said Monday.
“They are only trying to disturb Cambodia.”
On Thursday, Thailand’s border communication office wrote to its Cambodian counterpart, claiming that the construction of new stalls at the market violated a memorandum of understanding on border demarcation signed between the two countries in 2000.
“The border communication team of Region 1 would like to inform you that the above action is in violation of the joint MoU on inspection and border demarcation,” the letter stated.
Cambodia and Thailand have never fully demarcated their 805-kilometre shared border
Sar Thavy, Preah Vihear deputy governor and a member of the market construction commission, said Monday that several stalls had already been rebuilt, and that the all construction activities were taking place on Cambodian soil.
“We have to rebuild those stalls because [the market] has been on that site for many years,” he said.
“If Thailand complains about our reconstruction, it is their problem.”
He added that construction workers were hurriedly building stands in an attempt to finish the project as soon as possible.
In May, Cambodia officially requested US$2.1 million in compensation for the damage at the market, but so far there has been no response from Bangkok.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said that Thailand had not yet sent a formal diplomatic note protesting the reconstruction, but added that Foreign Minister Hor Namhong was set to leave for Bangkok today for a meeting of the Joint Border Commission, set up to negotiate border issues.
Var Kimhong, Cambodia’s top border negotiator, could not be reached for comment Monday.
AFP/4 August 2009
Yangon – The American man on trial in Myanmar for swimming to the lakeside home of Aung San Suu Kyi was hospitalised overnight after having convulsions in prison, a hospital worker told AFP on Tuesday.
John Yettaw, 54, who is known to have diabetes and other health problems, was taken from Insein prison to Yangon General Hospital on Monday night, the worker said, and is now recovering after treatment.
‘Mr Yettaw was hospitalised since last night. He is getting better now,’ said the hospital worker on condition of anonymity.
Mr Yettaw was taken to hospital by police after having a fit, and has been kept under guard in the hospital, away from other patients, the source said, adding that his condition was not serious but not giving further details.
Mr Yettaw, a former military veteran from Falcon, Missouri, is on trial alongside opposition leader Ms Suu Kyi and two female aides of Ms Suu Kyi’s after he donned homemade flippers to swim to her home in May.
The devout Mormon said he embarked on his mission to warn Ms Suu Kyi of a vision that she would be assassinated.
He faces charges of abetting Ms Suu Kyi’s breach of security laws, immigration violations and a municipal charge of illegal swimming. All four defendants face up to five years in prison.
Mr Yettaw was arrested just days before the most recent, six-year spell of Ms Suu Kyi’s house arrest was due to expire in the military-run nation.
|By Salim Osman & Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja|
Jakarta – Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday delivered his first budget since re-election, unveiling a raft of ‘populist’ measures and predicting the economy would grow a healthy 5 per cent next year.
In doing so, he fulfilled many of his campaign promises, with food subsidies for the poor, more funds for education and higher salaries for civil servants. He also indicated that his country would buck the regional trend of economic contraction triggered by the global recession.
‘I am confident our state budget will become a more effective instrument to make the people prosperous and to advance the nation’s life,’ he told Parliament on Monday.
The goodies he promised in his 1,009.5 trillion rupiah (S$146 billion) budget for 2010 include subsidised rice for the poor, subsidised fertiliser and seedlings for farmers, a 5 per cent salary increase for civil servants, and increased meal allowances for soldiers and policemen.
The government will also intensify other voter-friendly policies, such as subsidising schools, health insurance schemes, and direct cash handouts.
At the same time Dr Yudhoyono, who was re-elected with a resounding 60 per cent of the vote last month, said the government will raise people’s purchasing power as a means of fuelling economic growth. He plans to do this by lowering income tax and fuel prices, and providing higher salaries for civil servants, soldiers, policemen, teachers and lecturers.
Fulfilling another of his poll promises, the President said food and energy security would be maintained in anticipation of El Nino possibly hitting the country.
Among other things, the government will stockpile rice, distribute subsidised rice to 17.5 million households and maintain a stand-by fund of around one trillion rupiah to ensure food price stability.
In terms of budgets for ministries, the Education Department will get the biggest slice of the pie, at 51.8 trillion rupiah, in keeping with Dr Yudhoyono’s promise during the election campaign that he would make education a priority in his budget. The Defence Ministry is next in line with 40.7 trillion, up from the 35 trillion allocated this year, following claims that a string of recent military air disasters resulted partly from an inadequate defence budget.
In addition, Dr Yudhoyono said the government will allocate around 61.2 trillion rupiah for fiscal stimulus next year, to help attain economic growth targets, grow investment by 8.5 per cent, and reduce unemployment from 8.1 per cent to 8 per cent. But the budget will incur a deficit of 98 trillion rupiah, or 1.6 per cent of GDP, which the government hopes to cover by raising 107 trillion rupiah from the domestic debt market next year.
AP/4 August 2009
Phnom Penh – A Cambodian court found an outspoken opposition legislator guilty on Tuesday of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen, despite complaints from rights groups that the lawsuit was aimed at silencing critics.
During a closed door hearing, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Sem Sakola found lawmaker Mu Sochua guilty and ordered her to pay 8.5 million riel (S$2,866) to the state and another 8 million riel compensation to Mr Hun Sen.
Ms Mu Sochua said the ruling showed that the courts were at the mercy of powerful politicians, an allusion to Mr Hun Sen who dominates the country’s political scene.
‘I do not accepted the ruling of the court,’ Ms Mu Sochua said before marching with supporters two miles (three kilometers) to the headquarters her Sam Rainsy Party. ‘I am a victim in the case. I will continue the fight until justice is provided to me.’
Outside the court, about 100 supporters of Ms Mu Sochua clashed with police, with witnesses telling reporters that several were beaten with batons and kicked. No one was seriously injured.
The case against Ms Mu Sochua was filed after she attempted to sue the prime minister after she claimed he made defamatory remarks about her during two speeches.
In early April, Mr Hun Sen referred to an unnamed lawmaker as a ‘strong leg,’ a term seen by some in Cambodia as particularly offensive to women. Ms Mu Sochua has said the speech clearly referred to her. She also denounced his remarks in another speech.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court rejected her lawsuit in June, saying it was groundless, but it moved ahead with the prime minister’s countersuit.
Cambodia’s Parliament then stripped immunity from Ms Mu Sochua and another opposition legislator who was being sued for defamation by Me Hun Sen and senior military officers. The two accused Parliament of serving the prime minister’s interests as colleagues staged a walkout.
In June, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia and New York-based Human Rights Watch criticised the lawsuits against the lawmakers. The UN in a statement said the lawsuits undermine the constitutional freedom of opinion and expression.