Archive for January 2011
BANGKOK, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) — Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday offered to talk to the nationalistic “yellow- shirts” to clear any misunderstanding on the Thai-Cambodian border disputes.
Abhisit said he is ready to send his aides to meet leaders of the “yellow-shirts”, also known as the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), to clear any doubts they have on the ways the government is solving the disputes.
“My government is open-minded. I would like to see the PAD to open their mind too,” the premier said in his weekly national televised address.
“Rather than simply accusing each other, we should find ways to compare our information,” he said.
He added: “If our information does not match, how can we adjust each other’s understanding to find certain common understanding?”
PAD followers, launching their rally last Tuesday by occupying part of the broad historic Ratchadamnern Road in the down-town part of the capital, have set their three demands on the border disputes.
They want the Abhisit government to scrap the existing memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between Thailand and Cambodia in 2000 as the framework for settling the two countries’ disputed border areas.
They also demand the premier to move out Cambodians who are occupying the disputed areas, and the government to pull out as a party to the World Heritage Convention.
Abhisit said on Sunday that many of the PAD supporters misunderstood that the MOU allowed Cambodian people to trespass into the disputed areas.
He said the MOU in itself did not set the demarcation line of boundaries of Thailand or Cambodia, as demarcation was an issue for negotiation between the two countries based on other agreements or documents.
“The MOU does not put (Thailand) in disadvantage,” the premier said.
He said if the government moved to evict Cambodians from the disputed areas, it could create more troubles along the Thai- Cambodian border.
He also said that Thailand should not pull out as a party to the World Heritage Convention as that would allow Phnom Penh to gain an upper hand in administering the disputed area.
“The government stands firm on solving the issue by 100 percent protecting Thai people’s interest,” Abhisit said in his program.
“But at the same time, we need not affect peace or good bilateral relationship,” he said.
(MSNBC)—Cairo, The US embassy advised Americans Sunday to consider leaving Egypt as soon as possible amid the continuing pro-democracy demonstrations and an outbreak of mass looting.
The Sunday morning travel warning said the Embassy would update Americans about departure assistance as soon as possible.
It said U.S. citizens should avoid travel to Egypt because of unrest, violence, and ongoing demonstrations against President Hosni Mubarak government.
The warning was an escalation in the assessment of the situation by the U.S. government, which previously had advised against non-essential travel to Egypt and told people already there to stay put.
NBC News said the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs, which deals with Americans in need in foreign countries, believed there were likely “thousands” of U.S. citizens in Egypt, but was unable to be more specific.
“We do encourage U.S. citizens living and residing abroad to sign up with us at http://www.travel.state.gov,”; the U.S. State Department said in a statement. “This not only allows us to make more accurate plans in the event of a crisis in country, but enables us to provide those U.S. citizens with information and to reach them, should an emergency occur.”
Meanwhile, Turkey was sending planes to Egypt to evacuate its citizens, according to the Anatolian Agency.
The warnings were issued after five days of unprecedented protests against the three-decade rule of President Hosni Mubarak that have rocked the Arab world. More than 100 people have been killed.
On Sunday, the streets of Cairo were filled with looted stores, burned out cars and the stench of blazing tires.
The crackle of gunfire could be heard in the city center as well as outlying districts. Vigilante groups have been set up in some areas to protect property.
The outbreak of looting left long-suffering Egyptians caught between hope for democratic reform and fear of chaos.
It was initially quiet, but more than 1,000 protesters, who were being joined by a stream of others, began gathering in central Cairo mid-morning Sunday.
‘Mubarak, the plane awaits’
The crowds demanded Mubarak step down and dismissed his appointment of Omar Suleiman, the intelligence chief, as vice president and possible successor. It is the first time Mubarak has appointed a deputy in 30 years of office.
“Hosni Mubarak, Omar Suleiman, both of you are agents of the Americans,” shouted protesters. “Mubarak, Mubarak, the plane awaits.”
Jonathan Rugman, of the U.K.’s Channel 4 News, said in a Twitter message that the army was blockading all routes to the central Tahrir Square for first time. He suggested “tolerance running thin.”
But the biggest immediate fear was of looting as all public order broke down. Mobs stormed into supermarkets, banks, jewelry shops and government buildings. Thieves at the Egyptian Museum damaged two mummies from the time of the pharaohs.
“They are letting Egypt burn to the ground,” said Inas Shafik, 35.
The looting, which has spread despite a 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. curfew, prompted residents in some neighborhoods to set up roadblocks at intersections to provide security.
Al-Jazeera correspondent Jane Dutton reportedthat the police “have just disappeared. Any security at this stage is in the hands of the army.”
The station’s correspondents reported widespread looting in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria with people using batons, machetes and knives to protect their property.
It added that unidentified men who came out of the interior ministry compound had dumped a body on a street, citing an eyewitness named as Dina Magdi
Al-Jazeera said the men shot at people in the area, then left. The network said there were no immediate reports of injuries.
The Egyptian government said Sunday it had shut down Al-Jazeera’s operations in the country, ordering the “canceling of its licenses and withdrawing accreditation to all its staff as of today,” a statement on the official Mena news agency said.
Adding to the chaos, the Agence France Presse news agency reported that thousands of prisoners had escaped from a jail which holds many Islamist political prisoners.
It said inmates had overwhelmed the guards at the Wadi Natrun facility north of Cairo and escaped to nearby towns.
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Japan has agreed to make a contribution of $11.7 million to the U.N.-assisted genocide tribunal that is trying former leaders of Cambodia’s communist Khmer Rouge.
A tribunal statement issued Friday said that the contribution from Japan — the single biggest donor to the proceedings — will cover about 25 percent of its budget for 2011. Japan has provided a total of about $67 million to the tribunal, about 49 percent of all contributions.
An estimated 1.7 million people died under Khmer Rouge rule in the late 1970s. The tribunal convicted its first defendant last year, and later this year is expected to begin trying four former top Khmer Rouge leaders for crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and murder, torture and religious persecution.
Taiwan’s government-owned Central News Agency reported that Sun died Saturday, quoting Shin Kong Memorial Hospital Superintendent Hou Sheng-mou. Hou could not be reached for comment Sunday, but another hospital official confirmed Sun’s death.
That official spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the press.
Sun is the granddaughter of Sun Yat-sen, who led a revolution to topple China’s Qing dynasty and establish the Republic of China.
Sun Yat-sen’s efforts were followed decades later by a bloody civil war between his follower Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong’s communist forces. Chiang’s Nationalists resettled in Taiwan in 1949 following their defeat.
Nora Sun was born in Shanghai in 1938, spent her youth in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and moved to the U.S. in 1962.
She began a career in the U.S. diplomatic service in the late 1980s, serving as a U.S. trade consul at different times in Ghougzhou, Shanghai and Paris. She quit her diplomatic career in 1994 to start her own trade company in Hong Kong, helping U.S. and European companies invest in China.
In recent years, she split her time between Shanghai, Hong Kong and the U.S.
She was in Taiwan for the centennial celebrations of the 1911 Chinese revolution led by her grandfather when she was involved in the Jan. 1 car accident.
She is survived by three sons.
HANOI (Vietnam) – A reporter at a Viet newspaper has died after an intruder broke into his home, doused him with chemicals and set him on fire while he was sleeping.
The Laborer newspaper says 50-year-old Le Hoang Hung died on Saturday at a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City after 10 days of treatment for burns covering 20 per cent of his body.
His colleague Nguyen Thi Ngoc Mai says Hung covered the southern Mekong Delta for the newspaper for nearly 10 years. She says the attack could be revenge for his reporting.
Police are investigating the case.
BKpost—Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in his “Confidence in Thailand with PM Abhisit” weekly programme on NBT on Sunday morning that if a national flag of Cambodia is really placed at Wat Keo Sikkha Khiri Svara, it must be removed.
“The temple is located on the disputed border area and if the claim by yellow-shirt people group is true, the government will coordinate with Cambodian authorities to remove the flag”, Mr Abhisit said in Davos, Switzerland.
The yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) on Friday showed photos showing that a Cambodia’s national flag was place on the entrance gate of the border temple.
On the demand by the PAD that the 2000 Memorandum of Understanding signed with Cambodia be revoked, the prime minister said that the MoU was made in order to prevent the possible use of military force in settling border dispute and that it is in line with international principle.
He insisted that the MoU will not lead to a loss in the country’s territory as claimed.
Mr Abhisit said the demand for pushing Cambodians out of disputed area by the yellow-shirts is risky. The move could lead to a war between the two countries, he added.
The prime minister pledged to do his best for the benefit of the country and was ready to meet PAD leaders to clear air over the Thai-Cambodian border dispute issues.
PHNOM PENH, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) — The military confrontation between Cambodian and Siam troops over the border area near Preah Vihear temple continues on Saturday and troops on both sides are still on high alert, said a close military source standby at the area.
“We’re still on high alert to defend our territorial integrity, ” a senior officer, who asked not to be named, said on Saturday.
Thai side has stepped up their troops on their border side; they attempted to bring their Siam flag to fly at Cambodia’s Keo Sikha Kiri Svarak pagoda near Preah Vihear temple, he said.
“We have warned Siamese troops in advance already, if they dare to enter Cambodian territory, Cambodia will use self-defense rights to protect our sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.
Cambodian Ministry of Defense on Friday has dispatched dozens of tanks and fighting vehicles as well as missiles and ammunition to Preah Vihear temple area. He said that those armaments have arrived at Preah Vihear temple on Saturday morning.
The re-tension between Cambodia and Siam over the border happened on Thursday after Thailand demanded Cambodia to remove a national flag over Wat Keo Sikha Kiri Svarak pagoda near Preah Vihear temple, claiming that the pagoda is on the disputed area, but Cambodian side rejected it.
Meanwhile, Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation issued a declaration on Friday to firmly reject the demand of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to remove the Cambodia’s flag at the pagoda near Preah Vihear temple.
The ministry said that according to the map produced by the Franco-Siamese commissions between the period of 1905 and 1908, the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda, built by the people of Cambodia in 1998, is clearly situated in the Cambodian territory. Therefore, the flag of Cambodia is legitimately flying over this pagoda.
The ministry called “the statement made by Thai Prime Minister in parallel with Siam’s military exercise at the border with Cambodia is clearly provocative and constitutes a casus belli for future acts of aggression against Cambodia.”
Cambodia’s Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008. Just a week after the enlistment, Cambodia and Siam have had border conflict due to Siam claim of the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the temple, triggering a military build-up along the border, and periodic clashes between Cambodian and Siam soldiers have resulted in the deaths of troops on both sides.
BANGKOK, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) — The Saim government will use peaceful ways to settle the continuing border dispute between Siam and Cambodia, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Saturday.
During an interview with foreign media in Davos, Abhisit said both Siam and Cambodia are parts of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations and therefore, solving of any conflict between the two countries should be in a peaceful manner.
Asked about the three demands by the nationalistic “yellow- shirt” People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), the prime minister said PAD has the constitutional right to make such demands or to rally against the government.
“On my part, I will do only for the best of the country”, Bangkok Post online quoted Abhisit as saying.
The PAD is now rallying in front of the Government House, demanding the government to scrap the existing memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between Siam and Cambodia in 2000 as the framework for settling the two countries’ disputed border areas.
They also want the government to move out Cambodians who are occupying the disputed areas, and the government to pull out as a party to the World Heritage Convention.
(AP)—DAVOS – Siam’s prime minister told The Associated Press on Friday that protesters demanding it revoke its pact with Cambodia over a border dispute have a right to make they’re demands, but he will do what is best for the country.
Speaking on Friday at the World Economic Forum, Abhisit Vejjajiva said that since both nations are part of ASEAN any resolution must be done in a peaceful manner yet protect Thai interests, too.
‘You know, they can make their demands. They have the right to do so. We have to do what is the best for the country,’ he told AP.
‘We feel that the way we approach the border problems, and the problems – as far as the relationship with Cambodia is concerned – is best for the country, which is that we try to resolve whatever issues come up in a peaceful manner.’ Earlier this week, a rally by the People’s Alliance for Democracy – also known as the Yellow Shirts – and an associated fringe group, raised tensions in a country still recovering from political violence last year that turned parts of the capital into a war zone.
Police on Monday arrested five men accused of plotting to bomb the protest.
The demonstrators set up a stage along a major street near the UN’s Asian headquarters and Government House, the prime minister’s office that the Yellows occupied for three months in 2008.
Clashes between police and demonstrators broke out in the port city of Alexandria, the fifth day of unprecedented protests against Mubarak’s 30-year-rule.
The president ordered troops and tanks into Cairo and other cities overnight and imposed a curfew in a bid to quell unrest in which dozens of people were killed. It looked increasingly as if the army held the key to the nation’s future.
In an effort to appease the protesters, he dismissed his cabinet and said he would listen to their demands of reform.
The protesters, many of them young urban poor or students, are enraged over endemic poverty, corruption and unemployment as well as the lack of democracy in the most populous Arab nation. They pledged to press on with protests until Mubarak quits.
The unrest, which follows the overthrow of Tunisian strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali two weeks ago in a popular uprising, has sent shock waves through the Middle East, where other autocratic rulers may face similar challenges.
Several thousand people flocked to central Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Saturday, waving Egyptian flags and pumping their arms in the air in unison. “The people demand the president be put on trial,” they chanted.
Troops backed by tanks looked on but made no attempt to break up the demonstration. Protesters encouraged them to support their cause.
The scene contrasted with Friday, when police fired teargas and rubber bullets, protesters hurled stones in running battles.
While the police are generally feared as an instrument of repression, the army is seen as a national institution. However, the armed forces warned that the protesters would be in danger if they failed to disperse when curfew started.
ARMY HAS KEY ROLE
One Middle East expert, Rosemary Hollis, of London’s City University, told Reuters the army had to decide whether it stood with Mubarak or the people.
“It’s one of those moments where as with the fall of communism in Eastern Europe they can come down to individual lieutenants and soldiers to decide whether they fire on the crowd or not.”
In Alexandria, police used teargas and live ammunition against demonstrators.
“We are not demanding a change of cabinet, we want them all to leave, Mubarak before anyone else,” said Saad Mohammed, a 45-year-old welder in Tahrir Square.
According to a Reuters tally, at least 74 people have been killed during the week although there was no official figure. Medical sources said at least 1,030 people were injured in Cairo.
Government buildings, including the ruling party headquarters, still blazed on Saturday morning after being set alight by demonstrators who targeted symbols of Mubarak’s rule
As well as Cairo and Alexandria, clashes have also occurred in Suez, site of the strategically important canal.
Mubarak, a key U.S. ally, has held power since the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat by Islamist soldiers and his government still rules with emergency laws.
He promised to address Egyptians’ grievances in a television address on Friday but made clear he intended to stay in power.
So far, the protest movement seems to have no clear leader or organization even if Mubarak did wish to open a dialogue.
Prominent activist Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Laureate for his work with the U.N. nuclear agency, returned to Egypt from Europe to join the protests. But many Egyptians feel he has not spent enough time in the country.
In an interview with France 24 television, ElBaradei said Mubarak should step down and begin a transition of power.
“There is a consensus in Egypt in every part of society that this is a regime that is a dictatorship, that has failed to deliver on economic, social, and political fronts,” he said.
The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist opposition group, has also stayed in the background, although several of its senior officials have been rounded up. The government has accused it of planning to exploit the protests.
The deployment of army troops to back up the police showed that Mubarak still has the support of the military, the country’s most powerful force. But any change of sentiment among the generals could seal his fate.
Protesters in Tahrir Square mocked Mubarak’s sacking of his cabinet as an empty gesture.
REVOLUTION IN THE AIR
Mahmoud Mohammed Imam, a 26-year-old taxi-driver, said: “All he said was empty promises and lies. He appointed a new government of thieves, one thief goes and one thief comes to loot the country.”
“This is the revolution of the people who are hungry, this is the revolution of the people who have no money against those with a lot of money.”
The final straw appeared to be the prospect of elections due to be held in September. Until now few had doubted that Mubarak would remain in control or bring in a successor in the shape of his 47-year-old son Gamal.
It also poses a dilemma for the United States. Mubarak, 82, has been a close ally of Washington and beneficiary of U.S. aid for decades, justifying his autocratic rule in part by citing a danger of Islamist militancy.
Egypt plays an important role in Middle East peacemaking and was the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel.
U.S. President Barack Obama said he had spoken to Mubarak shortly after his speech on Friday and urged him to make good on his promises of reform. U.S. officials made clear that $1.5 billion in aid was at stake.
The European Union and other foreign governments appealed to Mubarak to show restraint and listen to the demands of the people but stopped short of suggesting he should quit. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdallah expressed his support for him.
Britain, Germany and other countries advised their nationals against travel to the main cities hit, a development that would harm Egypt’s tourist industry, a mainstay of the economy.