Archive for November 2009
Historical laughter: After worked for Pol Pot up to his death in 1998 then married Pot’s second wife in 1999, presently Tep Phan’s son lives and works for Hun Sen as Chief District of Malaii, former Ieng Sary-Pol Pot strong hold
TIME Foreign News–Monday 24 May 1954
While the Communists looked on and sometimes laughed, the West spent most of the week stepping on each other’s toes, complaining, apologizing and explaining themselves to each other.
An overexcited and incomplete report of Dulles’ press conference (see NATIONAL AFFAIRS) came to France’s Georges Bidault in the midst of an afternoon session. Set-faced and grim, Bidault accosted the U.S.’s Under Secretary of State Walter Bedell Smith the minute the session was over. “What does this mean?” he demanded bluntly. Smith hastily telephoned Washington for a full transcript of Dulles’ press conference.
Even after reading it a few hours later, Bidault was only partly reassured. Said one French diplomat: “When you said Korea was outside your security line, the Communists attacked. What might they do if they believe you will not fight for Indo-China? We had felt that the U.S. was resolved to save as much as possible of Indo-China. Now how can we feel? Only that you will let it go.”
Native Wit. It was only the first blow of the week for Bidault. Bidault had sworn that if the Laniel government fell, he would remain at Geneva as representative of a caretaker government even if he had “to go back to France every two or three days and stump the country” for his policy. The actual vote (see below), with its majority of two, was almost as bad.
When he could, Bidault stood off the cocky Communists with the only weapon left to him—native wit. When Tep Phan, Foreign Minister of Cambodia, denounced the Viet Minh invasion of his country and produced a telegram reporting the murder of three Cambodians by Viet Minh rebels, Molotov was scathing. “We have heard about this telegram, but we haven’t seen it,” he declared scornfully. The Cambodian minister waved the telegram aloft. “Now we have seen it, but we still haven’t read it,” snapped Molotov, to the laughter of the Communist delegations.
Bidault stood up. “When men are dying, we should not be laughing,” he said. “I should like to point out that the laughter did not come from the free nations’ benches.” The laughter stopped abruptly. Amid dead silence, Molotov arose and admitted sheepishly: “I agree with the French Foreign Minister.”
One-Sided Respite. Into the vacuum left by the collapse of the U.S.’s hastily laid plans stepped Britain’s Anthony Eden. To the Communists’ charge that Russia and China are the sole champions of Asian nationalist aspirations, Eden pointed out that since the war, India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon have all achieved independence from Britain.
“Therefore I resent and reject the suggestion that we ignore or oppose the tide of national feeling in Asia, and I ask: Where is there real national freedom—in Colombo or in Ulan Bator [capital of Outer Mongolia], in Delhi or in Pyongyang?”
Eden spent long hours conferring with Molotov and China’s Chou Enlai, emerged with a suggestion that international supervision of the.armistice should be by the United Nations, but not necessarily including the combatants or any of the Geneva powers: “There could be an agreed panel of countries from which these U.N. countries could be drawn.”
Molotov yielded an inch, agreed that the two-party commission proposed by the Communist Viet Minh could be supervised by a commission of “neutral” nations. (Bidault agreed that this might be workable; the U.S. produced a report from the U.N. commission of neutrals in Korea indicating that it would not.) Molotov also proposed that any armistice could be guaranteed by the nine parties at Geneva “collectively”—thus giving both China and Russia a veto power on any action. But Molotov rejected completely Bidault’s plea for separation of the armistice from a political settlement. Any separation, said Molotov, would amount to a “shrewdly arranged respite for one side.”
Giving Pause. Significantly, the biggest Communist artillery was directed at the U.S.’s “underhand activity to build up a new aggressive bloc” in Southeast Asia—a clear indication that the threat of a Southeast Asian pact was the thing that notably gave them pause. Remembering the months of stalling that went on at Panmunjom, the U.S. and France last week began doing what they could toward building such a pact without waiting for Britain. The State Department began consultations with Burma, Ceylon, India, Pakistan and Indonesia, emphasizing that the U.S. was supporting independence, not colonialism. Faced with Navarre’s admission that “France alone cannot withstand a general offensive” in Indo-China, Premier Laniel summoned U.S. Ambassador C. Douglas Dillon and asked (to Britain’s alarm) just how and under what conditions the U.S. was prepared to take an active hand. Military staff talks began between the U.S., France, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and the Philippines.
A pact had one major advantage, as the Economist pointed out. “In a crisis, public opinion faces the question: Do we or do we not honor our word? It is not necessary for Parliament and people to consider, more or less at pistol point, whether their vital interests are involved or not.”
* Also Indonesia (from The Netherlands), the Philippines (from the U.S.).
Bangcock (AFP) 27/11/2009– Thailand and Cambodia’s diplomatic row over fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra will not cause further clashes between their armed forces, their defense ministers said after meeting Friday.
Relations between the countries, which have fought a string of deadly gunbattles on their border since last year, plunged earlier this month when Thaksin visited Phnom Penh as an advisor to the Cambodian government.
After a two-day meeting in the Thai resort town of Pattaya which ended Friday, the Thai and Cambodian defense ministers said they had agreed to reach peaceful solutions to solve new misunderstandings.
“Thai and Cambodian forces will support every mechanism to strengthen relations between the two countries,” Thai defense minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters.
Prawit said the meeting focused on issues around the poorly defined, heavily armed border and how to make people who live there live peacefully.
Prawit added that military and diplomatic rows were different, saying: “We have to divide them from each other”.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed Thaksin as an economic adviser earlier this month and the Thai tycoon then visited Phnom Penh for four days from November 10.
Thailand was infuriated when Cambodia refused to extradite Thaksin, who was sentenced to two years in jail in absentia in September 2008 on corruption charges and is currently living in exile.
The two countries withdrew their ambassadors, and the row was further inflamed when Cambodian police arrested a Thai man on charges of spying on Thaksin and expelled the first secretary to Thailand’s embassy.
Thailand reciprocated soon after.
But Cambodia allowed the mother of the detained man, Siwarak Chothipong, 31, an employee at the Cambodia Air Traffic Service, to visit him in prison on Friday in a bid to ease tensions.
“They met for one hour and a half at a meeting room in the prison,” said Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, a secretary to the Thai foreign minister.
Siwarak’s mother, Simarak Na Nokhon Phanom, told reporters at the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh that she thanked Hun Sen for allowing her to see her son, but added that he was “unlucky” to be arrested.
Siwarak an employee at the Cambodia Air Traffic Service, was arrested early this month on charges of spying on Thaksin’s flight schedule.
BKP-28/11/2009–The diplomatic dispute between Thailand and Cambodia has been eased after the latter allowed the mum of jailed “Thai spy” to meet her son at Prey Sar prison, Democrat Party spokesman Buranat Samutrak said on Saturday.
Mr Buranat said the political movements by ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra received no responded from the armed forces of the two countries.
He said Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh had on Friday clearly said that the legal trial case against the arrested Thai engineer, Sivarak Chutipong, had nothing to do with politics.
Thai and Cambodian defence ministers vow to keep peace. They agree that a recent diplomatic row between two countries will not lead to conflict on border.
The Thai-Cambodia general border committee meeting in Pattaya concluded on Friday that only peaceful means should be used in settling border disputes between the two countries.
TIME—Monday 16 March 1959
In his dealings with the big powers, Cambodia’s saxophone-tootling Prince Norodom Sihanouk tries to play it real cool at both ends of the scale. The 36-year-old Prince (who resigned as King in 1955 because he likes being Premier better) has welcomed aid missions to Cambodia from the U.S., France, Russia and Communist China alike. After tours of Red China and the U.S., he proclaimed himself impressed by both. But Neutralist Sihanouk is sadly out of tune with his next-door neighbors on the Gulf of Siam.
Neighboring Thailand and South Viet Nam strongly disapprove of Sihanouk’s diplomatic recognition of Peking last July, but their differences really date back to ancient tribal feuds and jungle rivalries. South Viet Nam declares that Cambodia allows Communist Viet Minh guerrillas to cross its territory to stage raids in South Viet Nam; in retaliation, South Vietnamese troops picked up a border marker, moved it 1½ miles into Cambodia and threw a minefield around it. Thailand has given haven to opponents of Sihanouk. In a huff at these acts by his anti-Communist neighbors, Sihanouk accepted increased economic aid from Red China, broke diplomatic relations with Thailand. In recent months the volatile Prince has grown more nervous.
Something to Chew On. The most respected soldier in Cambodia was Dap Chhuon (pronounced Chew-on). As a reward for his brilliant rise from French army corporal—dap means corporal—to guerrilla leader, against first the French and then the Communist Viet Minh, Dap Chhuon had been named Royal Delegate and Governor of the Siemréap area, which includes the renowned ruins of the lost 12th century Khmer civilization of Angkor Wat. Slim, natty Dap Chhuon made Siemréap his personal fief with three battalions of Cambodia’s 31,000-man army under his personal command.
Recently Communist informers reported to Sihanouk that Dap Chhuon planned, with help from Thailand, to assassinate the Premier, overthrow the monarchy and establish an anti-Communist republic. Sihanouk dispatched a battalion to Siemréap with orders to get Dap Chhuon, dead or alive.
Dap Chhuon fled in the night into the jungles in his under-sarong. Last week, acting on another tip, Sihanouk’s forces captured him. Shortly afterward the government announced that Dap Chhuon had died “of injuries,” but had made “important revelations” first to his captors.
Message to Ike. Pictures of Dap Chhuon’s bleeding body were posted in triumph on the trees lining Pnompenh’s avenues, and Sihanouk flew a delegation of foreign diplomats into Siemréap to show them the “proof” of a plot—two captured Vietnamese radio operators, $4,000,000 worth of gold, and a purported message to Cambodian exiles in Thailand asking the strength of their forces. Brushing aside the denials from Thailand and South Viet Nam, Sihanouk thanked the Communists for tipping him off, and then turned on a “certain leading power” that furnishes arms to both Thailand and South Viet Nam. Demanding to know why the U.S., if not involved, had not told him of the plot, Sihanouk fired off a message to President Eisenhower asking U.S. intervention to prevent “further subversion” of Cambodia with U.S. arms.
The U.S. had certainly not been in on any plot to get Sihanouk, for it regards the ex-King as a likable but volatile fellow whose popularity among his country’s 5,000,000 people is undisputed. U.S. diplomats in the area fear that South Viet Nam and Thailand, by putting pressure on Sihanouk, may bring about the very tragedy they wish to prevent. Sihanouk, who has twice rejected Red China’s offers of military aid, might in a moment of pique become neutralist on the Red side.
REUTERS-27/11/2009–Bangkok – Tailand and Cambodia said on Friday a recent diplomatic row will not lead to conflict on their heavily armed common border where troops have clashed in deadly exchanges in the past year.
Relations deteriorated after the appointment of former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, on the run from a graft conviction, as an adviser to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who infuriated Thai authorities by hosting Thaksin this month.
Cambodia rejected Bangkok’s request to extradite Thaksin, who was sentenced in absentia to two years in prison for violating a conflict-of-interest law in Thailand.
‘Thai and Cambodian armed forces will support every mechanism between the two countries to improve ties,’ Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told a news conference after meeting his Cambodian counterpart in Pattaya, south-east of Bangkok.
The two countries recalled their ambassadors in the Thaksin row and Cambodia arrested a Thai engineer working for Cambodia Air Traffic Services, accusing him of sending Thaksin’s flight schedule to a Thai diplomat, who was expelled by Phnom Penh.
The row raised concerns that tension may escalate, leading to more armed clashes at the border. But following Thaksin’s departure from Cambodia, officials on both sides of the border have been more measured and deliberate in their comments and Thailand held back on plans to freeze low-interest loans to its neighbour.
AFP-27/11/2009–Phnom Penh – Former Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch stunned Cambodia’s UN-backed war crimes court on Friday by asking judges to acquit and release him on the final day of arguments in his trial.
Prosecutors and victims said the demand raised questions about Duch’s previous admissions of responsibility and his pleas for forgiveness for overseeing the murders of 15,000 people at a notorious torture centre.
‘I would ask the chambers to release me. Thank you very much,’ Duch said at the end of his closing statement to the court, officially known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.
Following a query by shocked judges, Duch’s Cambodian lawyer Kar Savuth confirmed that Duch was asking to be acquitted on the grounds that he was not a senior member of the Khmer Rouge hierarchy.
International prosecutors earlier this week asked judges to impose a jail sentence of 40 years on Duch – a former maths teacher whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav – for his role in the brutal 1975-1979 communist regime.
Under their leader Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge wiped out nearly two million people as they abolished money, property and set up huge labour camps in their bid to turn Cambodia back to a rural ‘Year Zero’. Duch’s jail, known as Tuol Sleng or S-21, was at the heart of the Khmer Rouge security apparatus. Inmates were taken from there during Duch’s tenure for execution at a nearby orchard now known as the ‘Killing Fields’.
AP-27/11/2009–Phnom Penh – Cambodia informed Thailand on Friday it was canceling a US$41.2 million (S$57 million) loan from Bangkok meant to finance the upgrade of a highway from the Thai border.
Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said his country didn’t need the loan and could afford to build the road on its own.
The decision comes during a period of bad relations between the two countries over Cambodia’s recent welcome to former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a fugitive from Thai justice.
Thai-Cambodian relations took a turn for the worse when Cambodia recently named Thaksin an adviser on economic affairs. The subsequent visit by Thaksin, and Cambodia’s rejection of a formal request from Bangkok to extradite him, drew a negative reaction from Bangkok.
Each country has recalled its ambassador and Bangkok has canceled an agreement to negotiate on joint development of offshore territory claimed by both countries. It also said it would review all other assistance agreements and projects with its neighbor.
The secretary to Thailand’s foreign minister, Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, downplayed the importance of Phnom Penh’s cancellation of the loan to upgrade the 117-kilometer road stretching from Cambodia’s northwestern border with Thailand to the province of Siem Reap.
PPP-26/11/2009 by Chrann Chamreun
Five men suspected of involvement in bomb plots allegedly orchestrated by a mysterious terrorist group were questioned at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday.
Prosecutors say the men are members of the Khmer National Unity Front (KNUF), also known as the Tiger Liberation Movement or the Tiger Head Movement, a group accused of attempting unsuccessfully to bomb the Cambodia-Vietnamese Friendship Monument in July 2007, along with the Defence Ministry and state television station TV3 in January of this year.
Som Ek, accused of masterminding the operations, called the accusations against him “very unjust”, saying that the KNUF was not involved in violence or terrorism.
“I acknowledge that we created the Khmer National Unity Front in late 2005 as a political organisation which aimed mainly to secure rights, liberty, power and dignity for the people, and to train them to find a righteous leader to free them from communism,” Som Ek said, voicing his displeasure with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. The KNUF, he added, was meant to be registered as a political party, not a terrorist group.
Deputy court prosecutor Hing Bunchea accused Som Ek of lying, saying he aimed to recruit people from across the country to plant bombs in an attempt to topple the government. Hing Bunchea said one man previously arrested in the case, former Mondulkiri provincial police chief Reach Samnang, had been released, and that five others – Som Ek, Loeuk Bunhean, Phy Savoeung, Pov Sovannara and Chea Kimyan – were being charged with delivering, placing, discharging or detonating an explosive or lethal device in a public place, and recruiting and training terrorists. If convicted, they face up to 30 years in prison.
Loeuk Bunhean, a former soldier and adviser at the Ministry of Defence, cried out in the courtroom that he was innocent and had no connection with Som Ek. “I would let myself receive a life sentence if the court found any evidence that I was connected with Som Ek,” he said. Phy Soveoung, another former soldier, also said he was not connected to Som Ek or the KNUF.
Municipal Court Judge Chhay Kong said the court would resume its hearing with the five men on December 3, though he did not say when a verdict would be handed down. Pov Sovannara and Chea Kimyan did not speak Wednesday, but are expected to speak at the December hearing.