Archive for July 2012
PPPost, 24 July 2012
by May Titthara
Supporters of detained Beehive Radio director Mam Sonando gather for a blessing ceremony in Phnom Penh yesterday. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post
With white shirts emblazoned with his face and Khmer and English placards, the peaceful protesters travelled to the capital from provinces stretching from Kratie to Takeo.
Sonando, also president of the Association of Democrats, was arrested on July 15 on a slew of charges including plotting against public civil servants, insurrection, interference in the fulfilment of public duties and inciting people to use weapons against authorities.
He was wanted by authorities for his alleged involvement in events that led to hundreds of families being evicted from their homes in a land dispute in Kratie’s Pro Ma village, in which a 14-year-old girl was shot dead by government forces.
The protesters held that Sonando was wrongfully accused.
“He did not commit as alleged,” said 35-year-old Touch Some, from Takeo province. “He didn’t do anything wrong. What the government accused him is just to break up the [Association of] Democrats. He never incited the villagers to do anything against the law.”
As reported in the Post, several civil society groups and opposition parties have called the arrest political intimidation.
Yesterday, Sonando was taken to a private cell after he fell ill with a severe flu, but his attorney, Sok Sam Oeun, said his condition has improved.
Oeun, also executive director of Cambodian Defender Project, added that he would request temporary release – or bail – within the next few days.
“When I submit, the court must respond within five days, but I am not confident, as you cannot predict these decisions or the law in Cambodia,” he said.
Sonando was abroad when the Kratie eviction occurred, and returned to Cambodia only four days before his arrest, which coincided with the departure of foreign dignitaries, in town for the ASEAN summit.
Its industry minister says the country’s average income per person could eclipse those of its two neighbors soon.
Burma hopes to overtake neighbors Laos and Cambodia in terms of average income per person within two to three years, as the country embraces political and economic reforms, Burmese Industry Minister Soe Thein said Monday.
“I hope we will have higher average income per person than Laos and Cambodia by 2014-15. It is possible,” he said in an interview with RFA’s Burmese service.
Soe Thein was answering a question on his expectations for the Burmese economy in the next five years.
Burma is languishing with a gross national income per capita of U.S. $379.60, based on U.N. figures in 2009, the lowest among its fellow member states in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Laos has a per capita income of U.S. $1,130 while Cambodia has U.S. $830, based on 2011 figures by the World Bank.
The gross national income per capita is the dollar value of a country’s final income in a year, divided by its population. It reflects the average income of a country’s citizens.
A nominally civilian government that took over power in Burma in March last year after decades of harsh military rule and financial mismanagement is implementing democratic and economic reforms that have led the international community to ease sanctions on the country.
As part of economic reforms, President Thein Sein’s government, with the help of the International Monetary Fund, launched a managed float of its kyat currency in April to help normalize and unify its multiple exchange rates.
Foreign investment law The country’s parliament is also discussing a foreign investment law, which reports say will spell out new tax exemptions, land-use terms, legal structures, and incentives for foreign companies.
“Our existing law [on trade] are already good. But to be able to compete with [neighboring] ASEAN [countries] and to protect the people, to protect our environment, we are drafting the new law,” Soe Thein said.
“Actually it was already discussed at the parliament in the first session, and now this is going to be discussed again,” he said.
When asked when the much awaited law will be approved, he said, “It doesn’t matter, it will be done at some point.”
“Even if this is not done yet, the existing foreign direct investment law is not bad at all. We can apply it for now. When the new law is approved, we can enjoy better benefits.”
Soe Thein said Burmese authorities will treat foreign companies on an equal basis based on market forces even though Burma has been close to China for decades especially under military rule.
“This is a market economy. Local partners will choose. If we consider efficiency, let’s say if you buy something, you choose a good product. In business, you have to choose the best partner,” he said. Asked whether foreign investments are flowing into Burma rapidly in line with reforms, he said there could be a significant rise early next year.
“We are going to have it. For now, we are still in the process of discussing. I myself have been discussing many times already. It will be a lot more progress by the beginning of next year, I think. Meanwhile, there is some increase.”
On potential employment benefits, the minister said some 110,000 jobs had been created over the last year with a potential for one million jobs when the government enters into peace with ethnic armed rebel groups.
“When the peace process is done, we will have more job opportunities in the [ethnic] regions [through the efforts of] international donors. Creating jobs is considered the number one criteria. We choose factories that can provide more jobs. Eventually we will have up to a million [jobs].”
The government has struck ceasefire agreements with several ethnic armed groups but their leaders said that the ceasefire is just the first step of a process that must include political solutions.
Clashes have been reported regularly in Shan state, Karenni state, Karen state and most notably in Kachin state, where rebels have not reached a truce despite several rounds of negotiations.
A Han-Chinese map of China published by Shanghai Publishing House in 1904 reveals that China stretched as far south as Hainan Island, and that Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands did not belong to China.
After holding it for 30 years, Dr. Mai Hong, former head of the Library of the Institute for the Study of Chinese and Demotic Scripts and Cultures, has decided to release the historical evidence.
Hong recently sat down with Tuoi Tre for an interview about the map:
How did you get this map?
I got this map when I administered a library of Chinese and Demotic Script books (now Institute for the Study of Chinese and Demotic Scripts and Cultures) in 1977. At that time, collecting maps was not our administrative function. However, to my surprise, an elderly man who often sold books to us showed up at our office one day and recommended I buy this map. I spent one month’s salary to purchase it without my family’s knowledge.
Is it a valuable map made a long time ago?
Yes, it is. It’s a color-coded paper map that has a carton-paper cover and can be opened like a book. Inside the map, there are more than 35 pieces – each measured at 20cm wide, 30cm long – stuck on canvas. Because I can read Han-Chinese, I’ve translated about 600 Han-Chinese words into Vietnamese that adequately represents the origin and date of the map.
According to the translation, the map was created across nearly two decades (1708 – 1904), from the Kangxi Emperor who ruled China from 1661 – 1722 to the Guangxu Emperor from 1875 to 1908. The emperors asked many clergymen and gifted astronomers and mathematicians to make this map.
More specifically, in 1708, King Kangxi recruited some western clergymen to draw the map of the Great Wall. In 1711, the King continued to ask the clergymen to survey lands in 13 provinces nationwide. After that, Chinese intellectuals and western clergymen worked together for nearly 200 years to finish this map. Among famous western clergymen helping King Kangxi with the map were Matteo Bicci from Italy, Joannes Adam Schall Von Bell from Germany, and Ferdinandus Verbiest from Belgium.
In 1904, Shanghai Publishing House printed this map and distributed it to all provinces of the Qing Dynasty, the last imperial dynasty of China ruling from 1644 to 1912. The introduction of the map was written by the director of a Chinese observatory.
What is some helpful historical data from this map?
In this map, the director of a Chinese observatory greatly appreciated achievements by western clergymen, who were at the time ahead of China in the field of astronomy and mathematics. As the map indicates, there are no photos, drawings or surveys of Truong Sa or Hoang Sa islands on the map. The Chinese themselves also admitted that Hainan Island was the end of their land to the south.
Why did you decide to release this map?
In my opinion, this map will provide some helpful evidence that helps Vietnam get more active in resolving disputes with China over the ownership of the two islands in the East Sea. This is also helpful data for local scholars or researchers who are studying the seas and the islands’ sovereignty.
According to Pham Hoang Quan, a local researcher on Han-Chinese and Demotic Scripts, the map, measuring 115cm long and 140cm wide, was printed on separate sheets and belonged to a group of large-scale maps.
Quan added that during the Ming and Qing dynasties, there were only 60 maps of this kind.
The map’s accuracy in terms of longitude and latitude is nearly on par with modern maps. This map was made by experts at the Observatory of the Qing Dynasty, so it can be considered official, he said.
Bangkokpost, 24 Jul 2012
There is no bigger news in Asean these days than the collapse of efforts to produce a joint communique after the recent 45th ministerial meeting in Phnom Penh. Much of the blame has been laid at the feet of host Cambodia but that misses the larger point.
The failure to issue a communique was the first in the history of the 10-member organisation that prides itself on harmony and consensus. Some observers have begun to question what Cambodia was doing as the ASEAN chair this year.(Sic!)
What happened in Phnom Penh, in a nutshell, was that one country’s fear of offending China somehow managed to trump all the others’ desire to send Beijing a stern message about its behaviour in the South China Sea.
The fact is, people could have seen this bust-up coming. During the April summit, Cambodia nearly managed to singlehandedly derail efforts to discuss a “code of conduct” in the South China Sea.
Prime Minister Hun Sen spent nearly an hour trying to explain to journalists how important China was to the region, but the others prevailed and the code of conduct was deliberated. It was hoped at the time that the July meeting would build on that progress.
Hun Sen’s defence of Beijing in April came just days after Chinese President Hu Jintao had visited Cambodia. Indeed, had the April summit collapsed, it would have been much easier to point the finger of blame.
The Cambodian premier in the past has praised China’s approach to giving money with no strings attached. Perhaps he’s annoyed that some other members of the “international donor community” want some accounting for the billions of dollars they have spent helping one of the world’s sorriest basket cases become a functioning economy.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Cambodia has little to lose by ditching the long-term interests of Asean for the short-term benefits it can receive by siding with China. Other politicians with short-term vested interests and patrons in Beijing would probably do the same.
Apart from this, the region itself is so intertwined with China that it is difficult to separate and not be influenced by the goliath to the north. At the heart of recent tensions has been the Spratly Islands, in which Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei all claim some interest, apart from China and Taiwan.
Therefore putting all the blame on Cambodia is not entirely fair. Instead it should be said that China is the culprit.
China, it seems, has learned its lessons well from the colonial powers of a bygone era. A divide-and-rule strategy works well in Asean, where Beijing can exploit the wide gap between rich and poor nations with some well-placed giveaways. No wonder Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei described the historic debacle of the meeting as “positive”.
Cambodia is hardly the first country that has gone out of its way to stay in China’s good books, and it won’t be the last. In 2014 the Asean chairmanship shifts to Myanmar, which was a client state of China when the military junta was in charge.
Beijing has poured billions into infrastructure in Myanmar, but the new government now aims to counter China’s influence by putting out the welcome mat to investors from all over the world.
Even Thailand, much higher up the development ladder, has relied heavily on support from China for big projects, an ambitious new rail network the most recent case in point.
So why then should we blame only Cambodia for the cracks in Asean’s harmonious facade? Blame China if you want, but also blame ourselves, Asean citizens and leaders, for not sticking together, especially on an issue that involves four of Asean’s 10 member states.
Finally, blame the way Asean works, and the obsession with “consensus” that sometimes flies in the face of reality. What’s so wrong with adopting decisions based on the wishes of the majority? There may be times when members have to sideline a few bad actors so they can’t derail efforts to work for the benefit of the 600 million-plus other citizens of the region.
24 Jul 2012
PHNOM PENH (Cambodia Herald) – A senior official of the Norodom Ranariddh Party filed a complaint with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court Monday to get control over the party’s seal.
Secretary General Sao Rany also asked the court suspend the rights of Prince Norodom Ranarridh while he is “temporarily” ousted as party leader.
Norodom Ranariddh Party spokesman Pen Songha said Sao Rany had no authority since he had already been ousted by the prince along with several deputies after asking Ranariddh to “take a break” from politics.
“I don’t recognize any actions of these people,” the spokesman said. Sao Rany said last week that the anti-prince faction in the royalist party wanted to merge with Funcinpec, another royalist party that Ranariddh used to lead.
The French architect being questioned in Beijing in an investigation linked to former Communist leader Bo Xilai has met with French diplomats and is in “good shape”, an embassy spokesman said.
Patrick Devillers met consular officials at the weekend after flying to China from Cambodia, where he had been detained at the request of the Chinese government, said the embassy spokesman, who asked not to be named.
“Our embassy colleagues were able to meet Mr. Devillers at the weekend. He appeared to be in good shape,” he said on Monday.
France’s foreign ministry said earlier it had asked for access to the 52-year-old architect, who left Cambodia a week ago after agreeing to go to Beijing to assist in the enquiry.
Devillers, 52, is understood to have been a close business associate and friend of Bo and his wife Gu Kailai, key figures in China’s biggest political scandal in decades, although his exact role is unclear.
He is believed to have first crossed paths with Bo and Gu in the 1990s, when Bo hired him to do some architectural work in the Chinese city of Dalian.
He was detained in Phnom Penh, where he had been living, on June 13 at Beijing’s request and boarded a flight to China after he was released by Cambodian authorities.
Cambodian officials and the French foreign ministry have stressed it was Devillers’ own choice to help Beijing with its investigation. China has so far made no comment on his detention in Cambodia or his arrival in Beijing.
The French foreign ministry has said that as far as it is aware, he is not being detained.
Bo, one of the best-known leaders of China’s Communist party, had been expected to join the Politburo standing committee — an elite group of politicians who effectively rule China — before his spectacular fall from grace this year.
The former head of the southwestern Chinese megacity of Chongqing has not been seen since March, when authorities announced he was being investigated for corruption.
His wife Gu, a former lawyer of international standing, has been detained for suspected involvement in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood last year.
Analysts say the scandal, which first came to light in February, has exposed deep divisions within the Chinese Communist Party ahead of a crucial, once-in-a-decade leadership transition due to take place in the autumn.
Philippine Foreign Undersecretary Erlinda Basilio did well to explain ― in print ― “[w]hy there’s no ASEAN joint communique” that came out of last week’s big regional meeting at Phnom Penh. Until I read her essay yesterday, all
I had read about was China’s going to town with its “success” at ASEAN, portraying the Philippines as an isolated state pathetically abandoned by its fellow ASEAN countries, all of them bowing before China’s might and meekly going along with the regional bully.
Basilio explodes that myth in categorical yet sober language (and even that level of restrained candor, I am unused to getting from our diplomats).
No, the Philippines wasn’t abandoned by its ASEAN neighbors who, in fact, already supported an earlier statement circulated by Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on the standoff at Scarborough Shoal. One foreign minister wrote the ASEAN chair on the “necessity for ASEAN to issue a timely statement by the foreign ministers… as our common effort to contribute to the maintenance of an environment conducive in the region which is of interest [to] all of us.”
The Singaporean foreign minister, K. Shanmugan, wondered aloud on his website how ASEAN “was unable to deal with something that is happening in [its] neighborhood and not say something about it.” In other words, it was as if ASEAN pretended there was no elephant in the room. He added: “There’s no point in papering over it. There was a consensus among the majority of countries. The role of the chair in the context is to forge a complete consensus amongst all. But that did not happen.”
But therein lay the problem. The chair happened to be occupied by Cambodia, obviously beholden to China, and it was determined to exclude any mention of Scarborough altogether. Indeed, from Basilio’s account, it was Cambodia which invoked the chair’s prerogative to quash any reference to Scarborough in the communique, in effect, a de facto veto on the majority’s support for the Philippine position.
Whatever happened to China’s much-touted “peaceful rise”? Since when did it become vicious, and why? China’s leaders devised the term “peaceful rise,” later on replaced by the less suggestive “peaceful development,” to reassure its Asian neighbors and the United States that its breakneck economic prosperity and corresponding military modernization should pose no threat to them, and that it was after all in China’s interest to have peace and stability. For a while, it led to the muting of territorial feistiness over barren islands and rocks in the South China Sea.
Basilio also exposes the canard that Secretary Del Rosario walked out of the meeting. Far from it. (In another report, I read that it was Cambodia’s foreign minister who walked out after the Philippines had already accepted a draft compromise.) Indeed, the scenario was quite the opposite. Del Rosario stayed on to say his piece. His microphone went dead, but he continued speaking to complete the Philippine statement.
Basilio diplomatically fudges whether Cambodian microphones usually conk out when foreign ministers speak but, since I am not a diplomat, I am completely free to speculate that Secretary Del Rosario’s microphone being cut off was not innocent at all.
Finally, Basilio shows that the disagreement at Phnom Penh was narrow and specific, but the consensus that the Philippines won was actually broad and substantial. The disagreement ― the one that stalled and finally killed ASEAN’s joint communique ― was on whether there will be an express reference to Scarborough. The consensus ― on which basis ASEAN can move forward despite the Cambodia-engineered debacle at Phnom Penh ― is on the key elements of a proposed Code of Conduct. I have read other reports saying that consensus affirms international law as the framework for resolving the territorial disputes. That in itself is a major step forward.
But the real triumph there is that the Code of Conduct recognizes the multilateral nature of the South China Sea problem. Again, given the game of shadows that is ASEAN diplomacy, it might have otherwise been wiser to hush up on this triumph. When it comes to victory, what’s important is to win it, not to revel in it. A little humility should be good. But the situation is different now.
The first ASEAN declaration calling for a code of conduct on the territorial disputes in the South China Sea was adopted in 1992, and it took 10 years before that declaration was joined by China in 2002. The 2002 declaration was a major step forward, and must have coincided with the time when China indeed took its “peaceful rise” to heart. Today, another 10 years have passed and obviously things have changed for China.
China has portrayed ASEAN’s failure to adopt a joint statement at Phnom Penh as China’s triumph, but it merely succeeded in portraying it as ASEAN’s defeat. In other words, by gloating about how it prevailed in Phnom Penh, this sordid episode should remind other ASEAN countries why it is so important for them to band together against their biggest, most powerful neighbor. Already, just days after Phnom Penh, China has upped the ante and announced newer initiatives in islands belonging to the Kalayaan Islands Group that are covered as part of Philippine territory under our latest Baselines Law.
In other words, China is using the Cambodian veto over the ASEAN joint communique to build momentum not just over the five scattered rocks at Scarborough but over the Spratly islands archipelago themselves.
We should capitalize on China’s aggressive streak to galvanize further international support for our position. Let the Phnom Penh meeting be one step backward, and foster global outrage to push us two steps forward.
PPPost, 23 Jul 2012
Cambodia and Thailand remain committed to the deployment of independent observers at the disputed Preah Vihear border despite comments from a Thai general suggesting they may not be necessary, the respective foreign ministries said.
On Saturday, the Bangkok Post quoted Thai military supreme commander General Thanasak Patimapakorn saying his Indonesian counterpart had dismissed the necessity for his country to provide observers.
“Indonesia considers that if the two countries can talk, they will have no need to come in, and this is also the two nations’ stance,” General Thanasak reportedly said.
A source from the Indonesian Embassy in Phnom Penh said the country would only intervene if both sides agreed that observers should be deployed in the 17.3-square-kilometre Provisional Demilitarized Zone surrounding the disputed 11th-century temple.
“If both governments do not agree, we will not come in. So the ball is in the Thai government’s court,” the source said.
Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdee said his ministry and the defence ministry remain committed to implementing the observers, and the country is continuing to negotiate terms of reference with Cambodia to do so.
“Once we come up with an agreement upon the terms of reference, that will be submitted to the Thai cabinet and subsequently will be submitted for parliamentary approval,” he said.
Cambodian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Cambodia remains committed to implementing the International Court of Justice’s July 18, 2011, ruling that both countries must withdraw troops from the PDZ so independent observers can be deployed.
“So for Cambodia’s part, we always agree about the terms of reference. For the Cambodian side, there’s no problem,” he said.
Separately, Cambodian Foreign Minister and current ASEAN chair Hor Namhong on Friday released a statement from the 10-country bloc on the controversial issue of the South China Sea, following criticisms of how Cambodia approached the dispute while hosting the recent ASEAN Regional Forum.
The statement reaffirmed the commitment of ASEAN foreign ministers to “the early conclusion of a Regional Code of Conduct”, negotiations over which saw the Philippines and Vietnam at loggerheads with Cambodia and China during the summit.
HANOI, July 23 (Xinhua) — Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung met with Cambodian National Assembly (NA) President Heng Samrin in capital Hanoi on Monday.
During the meeting, President Sang hailed the achievements of socio-economic development of Cambodia in recent years, which contributed to enhancing the position of Cambodia in international arena.
Sang expressed his pleasure at the Vietnam-Cambodia fine cooperation in fields of defense, culture, economy and investment, adding that the visit of the Cambodian NA President Heng Samrin is of great significance in promoting the traditional friendship relations between the two countries.
About the outcomes of the talks between the two NA delegations, Sang believed that the agreement on cooperation between the two NAs signed during Heng Samrin’s visit will contribute to further strengthening cooperation between the two legislatures as well as the closely ties between the two countries.
Cambodian NA President Heng Samrin, for his part, expressed his pleasure to visit Vietnam on the occasion of 45th anniversary of establishment of diplomacy relations between Vietnam and Cambodia.
He believed that the Vietnam-Cambodia traditional friendly relations will be further developed for the sake of the two nations and for peace in the region and the world.
On the same day, Vietnamese Prime Minister (PM) Nguyen Tan Dung met with Cambodian NA President Heng Samrin, during which PM Dung hoped the two sides to continue effectively implementing the cooperation agreements signed by the two leaders, promoting economic, trade and investment, education, healthcare and cultural cooperation, especially in border areas.
Vietnam congratulated Cambodia’s efforts on its position as chairman of the ASEAN in 2012 and also supports Cambodia as a candidate to become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, Dung affirmed.
PM Dung proposed the two sides to work closely to complete all work on border demarcation and marker planting soon. Dung also asked the Cambodian NA to support Vietnamese businesses in Cambodia, promoting the Vietnam-Cambodia traditional friendship.
Heng Samrin expressed his belief that with the joint efforts of the both sides, the traditional friendly cooperative relations between Vietnam and Cambodia would be strengthened.
Heng Samrin is paying an official visit to Vietnam from July 20- 25 at the invitation of his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Sinh Hung to promote legislative ties.