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Archive for December 2008

Thais set to discuss (Preah Vihear) dispute: minister

PhnomPenhPost Written by Cheang Sokha   
Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Thailand’s newly-appointed top diplomat plans to visit Cambodia to discuss the long-running dispute over territory along the countries’ shared border, Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong said Tuesday.
Hor Namhong said he spoke by phone to Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, who said he is willing to continue negotiations towards a peaceful solution to the border issue. “The day before yesterday [December 28], he called me and we extended wishes for the New Year to each other,” Hor Namhong said.  
Tempers flared on the border after the Preah Vihear temple was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site in early July, angering Thai nationalists who demanded that the then-government reclaim territory allegedly lost to Cambodia, including the 11th-century ruins.
Hor Namhong said political turmoil in Thailand, which has seen two prime ministers toppled this year alone, have slowed negotiations, leading to an escalation of border tensions that erupted in clashes between Thai and Cambodian soldiers in October. “[But] I can say that the military clash is old news…. So, we have to wait and be patient until Thailand’s internal issues are resolved,” Hor Namhong said.
Cambodia and Thailand have never fully demarcated the 805-kilometre shared border, though Cambodia’s top negotiator, Var Kimhong, told the Post Sunday that Cambodia and Thailand would resume border talks in late January.
Meas Yoeun, deputy military commander at Preah Vihear, said that the situation along the frontier is stable and that Cambodian troops are undergoing further training. “All institutions have to strengthen our forces,” he said.

Written by Kham

31/12/2008 at 9:02 pm

Protest takes a holiday

By: BangkokPost.com

Published: 31/12/2008 at 05:58 PM

Opponents of new Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Wednesday they would take a break for the five-day New Year holiday, then resume protests that already have forced the premier to move the venue of his first policy speech.

“We’ll have a small party tonight and disperse after midnight so that we can take time to celebrate the New Year festival,” said Veera Musikhaapong, a leader of the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), known as the “red shirts”. “We will come back after the New Year break,” Shinawat Haboonpak, another UDD core leader said. “The fight is not over yet, we will not give up.”

The pledge raises the threat of 2009 starting with the kind of problems that marred 2008 – months of street protest, government gridlock and damage to the economy and national morale.

“Today is the last day of a year which brought great concern to everyone,” said Mr Abhisit in a New Year’s Eve address broadcast on radio and TV nationwide. “I’d like all those worries to pass with the year and let us start a new one with hope.  “Let’s make our wish come true.”

Thousands of red-shirted supporters of fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra prepared to disperse from parliament, which they blockaded for two days to press their demands for Mr Abhisit to resign and call fresh elections.

They prevented Mr Abhisit from giving the government’s policy address in the Lower House on Tuesday, although he fooled the demonstrators by ducking into the Foreign Ministry to deliver the speech, as required by the Constitution.

Mr Abhisit, the 27th Thai prime minister since 1932 but the fourth in troubled 2008, came to power in mid-December after the Constitution Court banned previous premier Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin’s brother-in-law.

The court verdict reversed the political scene. Yellow-shirted anti-Thaksin protesters had occupied streets and even the two Bangkok airports as Mr Abhisit backed their demand for the government to resign and call elections.

Today, red-shirted pro-Thaksin protesters have occupied streets to back demands by the new Puea Thai iteration of the pro-Thaksin paqrty for Mr Abhisit to resign and call elections.

Mr Abhisit promised on Wednesday that the self-exiled Thaksin, ousted in the 2006 military coup to avoid a jail term for a corruption conviction, would get fair treatment if he decided to return home.

“The government will give Thaksin fairness,” Mr Abhisit told reporters. But he said Thaksin must recognise and submit to the justice system.

He said he accepted that protests by Thaksin loyalists may continue but added that if the government was successful then the “protests could not pressure us.”

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said the government had plans to talk to opponents to seek a peaceful solution. But there is no sign the red shirts are any more likely to talk than their yellow-shirted predecessors were.

The red shirts say the Abhisit government is illegitimate and that the court verdict that dissolved the previous government was a silent coup. (With reports by AFP)

Written by Kham

31/12/2008 at 8:37 pm

Thaksin must respect justice: PM means royal injustice

Published: 31/12/2008 at 12:30 PM Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, in response to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra’s interview with foreign media, said Mr Thaksin has the right to return to Thailand but he has to accept the justice system before deciding to be back in the country.

According to the ousted prime minister’s interview with CEO Middle East magazine, he would like to return and lead the government once again.

Mr Abhisit called on Mr Thaksin to respect the justice system and he should not start any political movement, as it may cause damage to the country.

On the government’s policy statement delivery at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday, Mr Abhiisit insisted the session could be done outside the parliament because the situation was not normal, adding that the government did not want to see more losses.

On New Year’s holiday, the prime minister wished public members to return home safely, and as a New Year’s present for the people, he vowed that his administration will restore peace and unity in the nation.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thuagsuban said the government had coordinated with the opposition, urging them to stop inciting conflicts.

The government had tried to contact Mr Thaksin to discuss various issues, in a bid to push the nation forward.

Written by Kham

31/12/2008 at 8:33 pm

Coup still exists, claims Thaksin

By: BangkokPost.com

Published: 31/12/2008 at 10:58 AM

Thailand is still under a coup but it is staged by the legal system and not the army, according to ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s interview with CEO Middle East magazine.

Mr Thaksin said he hopes to return to Thailand to help out the poor and his supporters, but he must receive a royal pardon from His Majesty the King first. Otherwise, he would continue to stay abroad and conduct businesses in the Middle East.

He also believed he could bring back confidence to Thailand quickly, if he could return to the country.

According to the interview, Mr Thaksin after being ousted from power by a 2006 military coup was trying to solve global poverty, working on the public health system in the Middle East, and setting up a fund to aid people in Asia who were hit by the global financial crisis.

Written by Kham

31/12/2008 at 8:23 pm

Policy Speech Venue change against the rules : Pheu Thai

The Nation

31/12/2008

The opposition Pheu Thai Party said yesterday it will lodge a petition with international organisations – and a court challenge – over the new government delivering its policy speech at a venue outside parliament yesterday.

Pheu Thai claims the move, which enabled MPs from the Abhisit Vejjajiva government to avoid a mob of red-shirt protesters, contravened the constitution.

The government yesterday delivered the policy speech to members of the House of Representatives and the Senate at the Foreign Ministry as the anti-government Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship (DAAD) continued to block entry to parliament.

Pheu Thai MP Prakiart Nasima said delivering the policy speech outside parliament was against Article 88 of the constitution |and parliamentary meeting regulations.”Speech delivery outside the parliament is against the rules, and the norm and tradition of Thai democracy,” he said. “We want to inform the international community since internal mechanisms cannot handle the situation.”The opposition party also plans to ask the Constitution Court to nullify the policy speech session. However, many pro-government academics doubted there was a legal basis to challenge the switch in venue.

Former constitution drafter Komsan Phokong, from Sukhothai-Thammathirat University, doubted that the Constitution Court would be able to rule against the move.”The constitution does not bar the government from delivering the speech outside the parliament building,” he said.

Thammasat University’s Dean of Law Faculty Somkid Lertpaitoon said the President of Parliament had authority to move the meeting venue in case of emergencies. The President could also call the meeting with short notice in advance during a state of emergency, said Somkid, who helped draft the last charter.

Deputy House Speaker Apiwan Wiriyachai insisted his party would submit the case to the Constitution Court as they felt it was misconduct to move the meeting venue without consent of all parliamentarians.

The President of Parliament should make the appointment for meetings in writing, he said, claiming that notice of meeting appointments via short message phone-notes was against the rules. “The Constitution makes clear that norm and tradition apply for the matters not written in the charter,” Apiwan said. “This was the first time we have conducted a meeting against the norm and law,” he said.

Yasothon MP Piraphan Parusuk said President Chai Chidchob broke regulations by only giving an hour’s notice of the change in venue for the meeting when he should make appointments for meetings three days in advance.

Prime Minister Abhisit said he saw nothing wrong with the move as the President of the Parliament had authority to convene the meeting when and where he deemed appropriate.

Nikom Viratpanich, Vice President of the Senate, also said the meeting for the policy speech was legal as long as they met requirements for a quorum (the number of MPs needed before such a meeting is deemed official.

Written by Kham

31/12/2008 at 2:11 am

Dengue fever casualties down nationwide: ministry

By May Titthara and Sam Rith PhnomPenh Post

30 December 2008

The head of the Health Ministry’s anti-dengue fever program credits better education and treatment for the decline
A HEALTH Ministry official announced Monday a steep decline in the number of infections and deaths from dengue fever countrywide this year.

Ngan Chantha, director of the ministry’s anti-dengue fever program, said 65 people have died from the disease so far this year, compared with 407 deaths in 2007.

He said 9,300 people contracted the disease in 2008, down from 39,851 cases last year.

Dengue fever is a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes that causes severe fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and skin rash.

Ngan Chantha credited greater funding and educational programs for the drop in infection rates and deaths.

“We have a preventative program in place to check the spread of dengue fever,” he told the Post Monday, adding that the government has also received support from the World Health Organisation, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and USAID.

Ngan Chantha said provinces hardest hit by dengue include Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Kandal and Siem Reap, but that the disease finds a strong foothold in areas suffering from poor sanitation.

However, Ngan Chantha identified a troubling trend  in the spread of the disease.

“Now, it is not only the children who get infected. It is also older men between 20 and 50,” he said, adding that the ministry did not have data on infection rates among adults but that it would conduct studies in the future.

Srey Acha, director of the Me Sang district referral hospital in Prey Veng province, said the hospital treated no cases of dengue fever so far this year.

“People in my district now have a greater understanding about how to prevent infection,” he told the Post Monday

Written by Kham

30/12/2008 at 8:59 pm

Sar Kheng upbraids police for corruption

By Vong Sokheng-PhnomPenh Post

30 December 2008

INTERIOR Minister Sar Kheng lashed out at his subordinates, accusing them of mismanagement and corruption in a speech last week.

Sar Kheng told about 300 police officers on Friday that funds earmarked for salaries were being siphoned by corrupt and incompetent officials.

“[Corruption] is a serious mistake and means they are stealing from the ministry and stealing official salaries by enlarging the budget. These mistakes will not be tolerated,” Sar Kheng said.

Cambodia ranks near the bottom of corruption watchdog Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, at 166 out of 180 countries.

Sar Kheng, who is also a deputy prime minister, lambasted corruption in procurement of uniforms, petrol and rice. He called on all levels of the police financial department to reduce unnecessary spending on electricity, water and building upkeep.

“These were issues the ministry has to be concerned about. We have to reform financial management for 2009,” Sar Kheng said.

“When we get the budget under control, the ministry will be able to increase salaries for police officers.”

He also announced reforms in the ministry’s rice distribution scheme that gave police officers bags of rice on top of their salaries.  

The new system would provide 2,800 riel for each kilogram of rice given under the old system. A local police official speaking on condition of anonymity said officers receive between 10 and 20 kilograms of rice on top of the current salary of between $45 and $55 per month, depending on rank.

Written by Kham

30/12/2008 at 8:55 pm