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Archive for July 2011

Cambodia, Malaysia pledge to strengthen military ties

Five Star General Comrade Nal met with Malaysia's Defense Minister Hamidi

PHNOM PENH, July 28 (Xinhua) — Cambodia and Malaysia on Thursday pledged to strengthen military relations and cooperation in the framework of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Speaking during a meeting with Cambodian Minister of Defense Tea Banh, the visiting Malaysian Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said his visit to Cambodia aims to seek Cambodia’s support for Malaysian initiative to establish military industry in ASEAN in order to produce its own military equipment.

He also promised to accept more Cambodian military personnel to train in Malaysia.

At the mean time, Ahmad Zahid expressed support to the order of the International Court of Justice on July 18 asking Cambodia and Thailand to immediately withdraw their military personnel currently present in the provisional demilitarized zone around the area of Preah Vihear temple and ordering both parties to continue cooperating within ASEAN and allow appointed observers access to the provisional demilitarized zone.

“The ICJ’s order has signaled a good sign of peace for Cambodia and Thailand on border conflict next to the Preah Vihear temple,” he said. “It also brings peace to the whole region.”

In response, Tea Banh said Cambodia fully supported Malaysian initiative for military industry and thanked Malaysia for constant assistance to Cambodian defense sector.

Later in the day, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had also paid a courtesy call on Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Ahmad Zahid said during the visit, he had brought 10,200 copies of the holy Quran and 1,000 prayer mats to distribute to the Muslim community in Cambodia.

He arrived in Cambodia Wednesday for a three-day official visit to the country.

Cambodia sends 32 soldiers to join multi-national military exercise in Mongolia

PHNOM PENH, July 29 (Xinhua) — Cambodia on Friday morning dispatched a group of 32 soldiers to take part in the multi-national military exercise 2011 in Mongolia from July 29 to August 13.

Speaking at the Phnom Penh International Airport before departure, Choeun Chamnith, a battalion commander at the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, who leads the mission team, said that the participation would give chance to Cambodian troops to exchange knowledge and skills with other countries’ soldiers. “It will help upgrade our troops’ capacity in military skills, rescue and humanitarian activities,” he said.

He added that the participation is a part of international peacekeeping operations under the framework of the United Nations and it reflects cooperation among countries in the region in peacekeeping efforts.

The participating countries in the Mongolia’s exercise are Cambodia, United States of America, Canada, India, China, Japan, Singapore, Russia and Vietnam.

This was the third time Cambodia has sent troops to join exercises in Mongolia.

Cambodia to host GMS economic ministers’ meeting next week

PHNOM PENH, July 29 (Xinhua) — The six participating countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation Program will gather here on August 2-4 in the 17th GMS Ministerial Conference to review and agree on the new GMS Strategic Framework for 2012-2022, said a press release from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Friday.

The new Strategic Framework is a road map for moving the GMS Program forward in the light of changing global and regional context, as well as emerging issues such as climate change, changing social and demographic trends, and changing balance of economic activity in Asia, said the statement.

The framework will help the subregion through “second generation” cooperation, including infrastructure investment establishing the GMS economic corridors.

“This Ministerial Conference is particularly significant since the new Strategic Framework marks a generational gear shift for the GMS Program and will imply significant changes to the type of projects and initiatives pursued in the next phase,” said Kunio Senga, Director General of ADB’s Southeast Asia Department.

“These changes have important implications for not just the GMS Program but all its stakeholders, including development partners and GMS countries,” he added.

Since its establishment in 1992, the highly successful GMS Program has been contributing to economic growth in the subregion, averaging more than 6 percent in the last 15 years.

By the end of June 2011, the ADB had extended loans and grants totaling almost 5 billion U.S. dollars for 55 projects in the subregion, mainly infrastructure.

The GMS countries consist of China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Thailand’s ‘lese majeste’ laws under scrutiny…Siam must wake up,King is made of man, no man should be placed beneath the King

AP—BANGKOK – Two articles in a now-defunct magazine may carry a huge cost for the 50-year-old editor who published them if prosecutors prove they defamed Thailand’s monarchy: up to three decades in prison – 15 years for each story.

Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, a supporter of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was formally charged on Monday with breaking this Southeast Asian kingdom’s ‘lese majeste’ laws, becoming the latest target of a controversial set of legal provisions designed to protect the crown.

The legislation is the harshest of its kind in the world, and in the five tumultuous years since the army toppled Thaksin, cases like Somyot’s are being prosecuted more than ever before. Now, a small but unprecedented movement has begun speaking out against what they see as an increasing abuse of the laws by an elite establishment bent on silencing its critics.

In the last few months, hundreds of prominent writers, filmmakers, lawyers and journalists have signed petitions calling for reform of the constitution’s Article 112, which mandates three to 15 years in jail for ‘whoever defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir to the throne or the regent.’ Also in their sights: related provisions in the 2007 Computer Crimes Act that have enabled prosecutors to ramp up penalties dramatically.

‘The time has come for people to raise their voices,’ said webmaster Chiranuch Premchaiporn, who faces 20 years in prison herself for failing to remove allegedly offensive reader comments from an online news forum quickly enough. ‘We cannot keep silent anymore.’

Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej is an intensely idolized figure here, and few if any Thais would condone insulting him. But the rising lese majeste caseload ‘has greatly undermined Thailand’s democratic credentials and done more harm than good to the royal institution the laws are designed to protect,’ Shawn Crispin, a regional spokesman for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said on Friday.

Cambodian girl dies from bird flu: WHO…Health is Hell in Cambodia

AFP—PHNOM PENH – A 4 year Cambodian girl has become the seventh person to die from bird flu in the country this year, officials said on Friday.

The child, from north-western Banteay Meanchey province, died on July 20, the health ministry and the World Health Organization said in a joint statement. Tests confirmed she had contracted H5N1 avian influenza.

‘I urge parents and guardians to keep children away from sick or dead poultry,’ Cambodian Health Minister Mam Bun Heng said.

All seven of Cambodia’s bird flu cases since January have been fatal. Six of the victims were children.

The girl is the 17th person in Cambodia known to have become  infected with the virus and the 15th to die from complications of the disease since 2005, they said.

The H5N1 strain of avian influenza has killed 330 people worldwide since 2003, the statement said.

Thailand to propose General Border Committee meeting…Thai talks to stall ICJ ruling

Bangkokpost—Thailand will seek a meeting of the General Border Committee (GBC) for consultations with Cambodia on implemention of the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) ruling that both countries must withdraw their troops from the designated provisional demilitarised zone adjoining Preah Vihear temple.

Defence spokesman Col Thanathip Sawangsaeng said the Border Affairs Department was assigned the task by a meeting of the Defence Council on Thursday chaired by Gen Kittipong Ketkowit, the permanent secretary for defence.

The meeting discussed ways of implementing the ICJ ruling and agreed that  bilateral mechanisms were the best way to solve the border problems with Cambodia.

It was agreed that the Border Affairs Department, which is under the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters, would work with  Cambodia on organising a General Border Committee  meeting for talks on how to jointly implement the ICJ ruling.

Col Thanathip said  It was agreed at the meeting that Thailand would decide on an approriate date for  the proposed GBC meeting if Cambodia was not ready to do so.

Meawnhile, the situation along the Thai-Cambodian border is calm, he said.

Laos forests feeding Vietnam industry, group says

AP—BANGKOK – Despite an export ban, Vietnamese companies are smuggling logs from the once rich forests of Laos to feed a billion-dollar wood industry that turns timber into furniture for export to the Europe and the United States, an environmental group said on Thursday.

The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency alleged that the Vietnamese military was heavily involved in bribing Lao officials and then trafficking the timber on a massive scale to wood processing factories in neighbouring Vietnam. This was denied by the government and military.

Laos, with some of the last intact tropical forests in the region, in 1999 slapped a ban on the export of raw timber and says it is expanding its forest cover. But there are widespread reports of rampant logging, often associated with the country’s mushrooming dam projects and agricultural plantations.

‘Vietnam is almost annexing areas of Laos to feed its own industries. The only winners in Laos are corrupt government officials and well-connected businessmen,’ Julian Newman, an EIA staffer, said at a news conference. The group focuses on environmental crime worldwide.

Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga denied the allegations.