Thursday, December 31, 2009

France Opens National Identity Debate

VOA News 30/12/2009

France's center-right government has launched a national debate about what it means to be French. The discussion on national identity is being described as a way for citizens to take stock of who they are and of France's place in the world. Critics argue it casts suspicion on immigrants and on French minorities.

Many outsiders sum up "Frenchness" through a series of cliches - berets, baguettes, good cheese and wine. But immigration has changed the face of France. Some French Muslim women wear headscarves. The traditional North African dish, couscous, is a favorite here. Arab words like Toubib - or doctor - pepper the French language.

So what does it mean to be French today? President Nicolas Sarkozy has tapped another French staple - the love of debate - to launch a three-month, national conversation on the subject. There's even an Internet site ( where Eric Besson, France's minister for immigration, integration and national identity, invites French to air their views.

In a videotaped message on the Web site, Besson says the debate aims to examine French values - which include equality, fraternity, secularism and gender equality - and to sketch France's common future. Suggested topics for discussion include whether France should have integration contracts for immigrants applying for citizenship and whether students should be required to sing the French national anthem.

WHO: H1N1 Influenza Pandemic to Last Another Year

The director-general of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan, predicts the H1N1 swine flu virus is likely to continue circulating around the world for another year. She warns nations must remain vigilant because the H1N1 virus could mutate into a more dangerous form.

Chan says impressive progress has been made in areas such as treatment for HIV/AIDS, in the large number of lives saved among children under five and in significant cuts in deaths from malaria and measles.

But, she warns this progress is fragile. She says the momentum for health development could come to a grinding halt because of problems stemming from the food and financial crises, the changing climate and the H1N1 influenza pandemic.

"Just imagine, a severe pandemic coming at such a fragile time in a world where there are many people suffering from chronic diseases like heart disease, lung disease, including asthma, cancers, with many more people suffering from HIV, obesity and the list goes on," she said.

The World Health Organization reports H1N1 has spread to more than 200 countries, with nearly 12,000 laboratory confirmed deaths. Chan says it is likely this death toll is greatly underestimated. She says it probably will take about two years after the pandemic has ended for the true figure to be established.

Kasit defends record in office

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya has defended his performance over the past 12 months - particularly in dealing with the Thai-Cambodia dispute - insisting he will not resign from his post.

Mr Kasit yesterday responded to public criticism and polls that show he is "a weak link in the government" and that his ministry has performed badly over the past year.

Mr Kasit said he had good relations with all countries around the world - except one country which created problems because "some Thais became spies to undermine him". He was referring to Cambodia.

"I did not yield to the leader of that country because it would have meant losing what is in Thailand's national interest, especially the oil and gas reserves under the Gulf of Thailand," Mr Kasit said.

"It does not belong to any family or any group of people, not Thais or another country. It belongs to the 65 million Thai people. I will not allow one or a few families from any country to occupy this oil and gas reserve, and I will not quit my position.

"What I try to fight for is the right thing and I can explain everything I did. I think this government and I did everything right."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Thailand Begins Repatriation to Laos of Hmong Migrants

Move comes despite international concerns that they will face persecution in their home country

The Thai government rejects accusations by the international community that thousands of Lao Hmong refugees were being forcibly sent back to Laos. The Thai military carried out the deportation under tight security.

The deportation of 4,000 Hmong to Laos began in the early hours of Monday with convoys of military trucks and buses ferrying people to the border.

Human rights groups fear the Hmong, who have been held at the Huay Nam Khao refugee camp, will be persecuted once they return to Laos.

The U.S. government called for a suspension of the operation, saying Thailand has violated international humanitarian principles by forcibly returning the Hmong.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn denies that accusation. He says Lao authorities promise to grant amnesty to those returning.

Army determined to prevent bloodshed and acop

The Nation 29/1/009
As the political turbulence bubbles with the red shirts' threat to oust the government, Army chief General Anupong Paochinda has stepped in to pour cold water on the rival camps. Ads by Google

While Anupong's remarks appeared to be the usual pledge not to stage a coup, he did make a significant point by saying "I am confident there will be no coup because I will not allow the situation to reach that point [to warrant military intervention]".

Thailand has experienced a number of military interventions. Before each coup in the past, top military leaders would echo one another vowing not to grab power. Then soldiers would march out of their barracks to take over the seat of government.

Unlike past commanders, Anupong has reinforced his no-coup mantra with a firm commitment to deny himself a pretext to seize power.

When General Sonthi Boonyaratglin was the dark horse who became Army chief in 2005, he was a low-key soldier harbouring no political ambitions. But the fractious politics between then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his yellow-shirt opponents swept him into the centre of the power struggle.

Friday, December 25, 2009

'Health Tourism' Increasingly Popular in Asia

Medical tourism brought in $1 billion in 2007 and that is expected to triple by 2012, when the Health Ministry expects more than two million medical tourists

Asia is being seen as a growth center in the globalization of health services thanks to rising demand from developed countries as well as the region's expanding middle class. But there are concerns that so-called medical tourism will shift resources away from public to private health care systems.

Over much of the past 10 years Thailand has led the growing medical tourism market, as foreigners sought lower cost health services and ready access to treatment.

The services available range from complicated cardiac surgery, to cosmetic surgery to dentistry and even alternative care, such as Chinese medicine, yoga and traditional Ayurvedic treatments.

Rising international travel and the availability of information on the Internet have boosted the number of travelers seeking treatment.

In Thailand, as many as 1.4 million visitors arrived seeking medical care in 2007, the most recent year numbers are available - up from half a million in 2001. Medical tourism brought in $1 billion in 2007 and that is expected to triple by 2012, when the Health Ministry expects more than two million medical tourists.

New Iron-Fortified Rice Reduces Anemia

Iron deficiency affects an estimated 3.5 billion people worldwide. In adults, it causes fatigue and lost productivity. It can increase the risk of infection and death in young children, and can also limit their motor skills and ability to learn later in life.

Iron deficiency and its more serious consequence, anemia, are especially common among people who don't eat meat or can't afford it, and who therefore subsist on grains. Wheat and maize are often fortified with iron. But rice has proved hard to fortify without adversely affecting its appearance or flavor.

Re-assembled rice

Diego Moretti at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and his colleagues tried using "fake" rice made out of iron-fortified rice-flour dough and shaped by machine into grains that look like the local variety.

"At first sight it sounds silly to first [grind] rice and then reassemble it with a machine," he says.

It may sound silly, but it worked. In a 2006 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Moretti and colleagues mixed grains of fortified pseudo-rice in with real rice and served it to iron-deficient school children in India. Anemia fell by half among these children, while those who just ate regular rice did not improve. And the children could not tell the difference between fortified and unfortified rice.

Minimal cost

Mark Beinner at Brazil's Federal University of Minas Gerais just published a study in the January issue of the Journal of Nutrition in which he and his Brazilian colleagues used a version of this imitation rice to help improve the iron intake in very young children. He says when produced commercially at an industrial scale, the added cost is minimal.

"We're looking at a 3 to 5 percent increase in the cost of a 5-kilo bag of rice," he says. "That's not a lot. The cost of not doing anything is much more substantial in years of life lost not treating young populations that are anemic."

Andy's view on Thai Politic

A visiting relative asked me to define Thailand's political malaise in a single sentence, and I eventually concluded that it was a lack of accountability that is at the heart of our misfiring democracy. Call it the ''Face Saving Syndrome'' if you will, but it seems clear to me that many of the unresolvable issues stem from a failure of those directly involved to face the music and take responsibility, or at least show some humility.

Equally there is no moral or political will to bring them to justice. Whether you're organising a coup, or guilty of corruption, or wrecking tourism through airport blockades, or trashing a summit, or presenting blatantly false accusations to parliament or threatening the PM's life, or inciting a revolt from abroad, or even neglecting safety standards in your nightclub, no one here is held accountable in a meaningful and swift manner.

You don't even get a meek apology or humble acknowledgement of wrong doing. Instead we have a culture of evasion, most seem to believe you should worm your way out through influence or contempt for the law, and the majority of the public that judge them evidently have no problem with that.

US lawmakers worried over fate of Hmong

WASHINGTON: : Nine US senators have written to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to protest against the possible expulsion of more than 4,000 ethnic Hmong back to Laos, where they fear persecution.

Thailand confirmed on Wednesday the move would take place by the year's end despite the international outcry.

"While we recognise that the Kingdom of Thailand is burdened by the large number of refugees it hosts on its territory, we encourage you not to take steps to repatriate any individuals to Laos at this time," the US lawmakers wrote in a letter dated Dec 17.

The group of ethnic Hmong, held in a camp in Huay Nam Khao in Phetchabun province, is seeking political asylum based on claims they face persecution from the Lao regime because they fought alongside US forces during the Vietnam War.

Democratic senators Russ Feingold, Patrick Leahy, Barbara Boxer, Sheldon Whitehouse, Mark Begich, Amy Klobuchar, Al Franken and their Republican colleagues Richard Lugar and Lisa Murkowski denounced the government's "lack of transparency" in screening the refugees.

"We believe that the lack of transparency in the screening and repatriation process only exacerbates these difficulties and heightens international concerns regarding these populations," the letter said.

The lawmakers urged Thailand to work with an independent third party to conduct a "transparent" screening process that complies with international norms.

MPs face lawsuit over leak

The Foreign Ministry has filed a lawsuit against three Puea Thai Party MPs who it says leaked classified documents to the public.

Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to the foreign minister, and acting Crime Suppression Division (CSD) chief Supisal Pakdinarunart said the lawsuit was filed on Wednesday naming Jatuporn Prompan, Natthawut Saikua and Kobkaew Pikulthong.

They accuse them of damaging the ministry by disclosing two sets of classified documents to the public. The lawsuit was filed at the CSD.

Mr Jatuporn, Mr Natthawut and Ms Kobkaew are also members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship.

Mr Chavanond said the documents were aired on the Truth Today television programme on Dec 17, and by Mr Jatuporn on Wednesday.

Written by the ministry, they suggest one response to the souring of relations between Cambodia and Thailand.

The document identified former leader Thaksin Shinawatra as the source of the problem, and suggested it be "eliminated" at source.

Mr Jatuporn said he took that to mean the government wanted Thaksin killed.

Mr Chavanond said the ministry was also gathering evidence to file a suit against Thaksin, after he translated the two papers and posted them on his website.

The documents contain the ministry's analysis of Thai-Cambodian relations and measures to handle the situation, he said.

"The leaked documents were considered a national strategy," Mr Chavanond said.

"The disclosure makes the ministry's work more difficult because the neighbouring country knows Thailand's position and could adjust its strategy to prevail over us."

PM denies plan for coup in Cambodia

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva insisted on Friday that his government has no plan to bring about a military coup in Cambodia to topple the Hun Sen government.

“My government has a clear policy to tighten ties with Cambodia and to refrain from the use of force in settling disputes with a nieghbouring country,” Mr Abhisit stated.

The premier said it was not necessary to explain his government's position to the Cambodian leader.

He said the ongoing misunderstanding by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was caused by him receiving misguided and inaccurate information from a political camp in Thailand.

Asked about Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's offer to mediate peace talks, Mr Abhisit said he personally hopes that Mr Yudhoyono can help improve communication between Thailand and Cambodia.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Miracle twin celebrate Christmas

Nine Msn News Miracle twins celebrate Christmas:

Formerly conjoined twins Trishna and Krishna are preparing to spend their first Christmas apart.

The Bangladeshi twins, who also celebrated their third birthday this week, have been photographed wearing Santa hats and spreading the Christmas cheer.

The pair were separated in a marathon 32-hour operation at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital last month.

They were released from hospital on Monday, just in time for the festivities.

A pat on the backpack for travel guide creators

Developers of a new application for the Apple iPhone say the travel guide will soon prove an essential tool for visitors exploring Cambodia’s tourist attractions

A screen grab taken from the new travel guide application in use on an iPhone shows tourists at Angkor Wat.THE famous Angkor Wat ruins is expected to feature soon in what is touted asCambodia’s first dedicated iPhone application.

The app, named Angkor after the 11th-century temple, was developed by Australian-owned online travel site Travelfish. The phone-based guide focuses on the Kingdom’s famous Angkor-era ruins and Siem Reap.

A screen grab taken from the new travel guide application in
use on an iPhone shows tourists at Angkor Wat

Currently undergoing the approval process by Apple, the app is the next step for the company, which has been selling PDF guides to Siem Reap for the past three years with much success.

Travelfish, which produces original content on Southeast Asian destinations such as Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, partnered with a South Africa-based development team to begin work on the project in September.

They were on track to kill him: Reds

Pheu Thai MP Jatuporn Prompan yesterday alleged the government was hatching a secret plan to "get rid of" fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra - backing up his allegation for a second time by disclosing a classified memorandum prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Repeating his claim of last week, Jatuporn said a memorandum on Thai-Cambodian ties, classified as secret and sent from Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, was purportedly a plot to assassinate Thaksin.

"The term "get rid of" is a codeword for killing," he said, claiming such a codeword is commonly understood by MFA officials.

At yesterday's press conference, Jatuporn focused on the five-page annex to the main document which he touched on last week.

The annex outlined responses of varying intensity to the prime minister of Cambodia, he said. The 18 measures included a ban on Thai citizens visiting Cambodian casinos, cancellation of the extradition treaty, reinforcement of troops along the borders, and cancellation of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on maritime boundaries.

He said the MFA analysis shed light on the dilemma of memorandums of understanding previously signed with Cambodia.

Red shirts to rally Dec 27-28

Bangkok Post 23/12/2009
King Taksin was born on April 17, 1734. His coronation was on Dec 28, 1768.
The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) continued to its pressure on the government by announcing a mass gathering at Sanam Luang on Sunday and Monday, despite earlier promises of a temporary truce.

The UDD had earlier pledge not to stage another until after the New year.

Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, a core UDD leader, said the rally would start at 5pm and end at 11pm on each day.

It would be in celebration of the 275th bithday of King Taksin the Great, he said.

King Taksin was born on April 17, 1734. His coronation was on Dec 28, 1768.

Members of the June 24 Democratic group, Dan Siam group, Democratic Power group, Red Taksin group, labour unions and representatives of university students would join the event.

He said the mass gathering would be peaceful and asked the government not to obstruct it.

Thailand firm on returning 4,000 Hmong to Laos

Thailand confirmed on Wednesday it will send more than 4,000 ethnic Hmong back to communist Laos, where they fear persecution, by the year's end -- despite serious international concerns about the move.

Hmong refugees are seen at a Thai detention centre in Nongkhai province, northeastern Thailand near the Thai-Laos border, in 2008. Thailand confirmed Wednesday it will send more than 4,000 ethnic Hmong back to communist Laos, where they fear persecution, by the year's end -- despite serious international concerns about the move.

"It is worrying that while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs seems to feel international pressure, the army is doing the opposite,"
Hmong refugees are seen at a Thai detention centre in Nongkhai province, northeastern Thailand near the Thai-Laos border, in 2008. Thailand confirmed Wednesday it will send more than 4,000 ethnic Hmong back to communist Laos, where they fear persecution, by the year's end -- despite serious international concerns about the move.

The group, held in a camp in Huay Nam Khao in northern Phetchabun province, are seeking political asylum based on claims they face persecution from the Lao regime because they fought alongside US forces during the Vietnam War.

"Thailand will complete repatriation of the Hmongs at Huay Nam Khao within 2009 because that is the government policy as discussed with Laos," said defence ministry spokesman Colonel Thanathip Sawangsaeng.

The confirmation came despite recent ministerial talks on the issue with Bangkok-based diplomats and a senior US delegation to Thailand.

Jatuporn reveals more papers

Puea Thai MP Jatuporn Promphan on Wednesday made public an additional nine pages of a classified document he claims to have been prepared by the Foreign Ministry and outlining proposed action against Cambodia.

The pages shown by Mr Jatuporn at a press conference proposed taking three steps to counter the actions of the Cambodian prime minister. This included delaying Thai-Cambodian cooperation projects and reinforcement of troops along the border, particularly near the Preah Vihear temple.

The papers also proposed tough action against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is now economic adviser to the Phnom Penh government and is being protected by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Mr Jatuporn, a leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, on Friday released what he said were the first pages of Foreign Ministry document. They focused on how Thailand should handle its relations with Cambodia and described Thaksin as a "key factor" in the destabilisation of the government that must be eliminated.

Mr Jatuporn interpreted it as a threat to Thaksin's life.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rival camps must let go of the past

While this year's political polarisation has been a never-ending nightmare of animosities and personal vendettas, next year's forecast is grim too: a political landscape dominated by more of the same bad features.
All parties involved in the conflict are too preoccupied with self-serving interests to realise the side effects they are having on society.

On Saturday, Privy Councillor Surayud Chulanont gave a straight answer to a direct question on social divisions. He said: "There is no problem which cannot be resolved through talks. But there must be mutual understanding about the existing problem and a common agreement on how to go about tackling the problem. If we cooperate, then there is no problem beyond a solution."

Surayud wanted to highlight His Majesty's advice on the greater good.

He also reminded parties concerned to show gratitude to the King by ensuring social peace instead of bickering.

Many lifted his remarks out of context in order to float an idea of Surayud acting as a go-between to broker peace between fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra and the government.

The red shirts and the yellow shirts both gave a swift response opposing any attempts at mediation. For the sake of good form, the rival camps did not make an outright rejection. They just set the pre-conditions so high the negotiating table could not be reached.

The yellow shirts will not settle for anything less than a complete and irreversible downfall of Thaksin. They are demanding the impossible - turning the clock back to the pre-2006 coup before starting any negotiations.


So long as the rival camps are determined to inflict total destruction on one another, the turmoil will persist until either side achieves a decisive victory or both play their cards until none are left standing, the victims of their own war of attrition.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bikini a stretch in Louis Vuitton $1120 creation

LOOKING a million dollars on the beach is now easier with a luxury bikini. Louis Vuitton's new summer range features a bikini that retails for $1120.

The nautical-inspired French coquette bikini, worn by Australian supermodel Catherine McNeil, is part of the fashion giant's summer Cruise range.

A Louis Vuitton spokesman said the label's well-known craftmanship explains the high price tag.

"The Louis Vuitton engraved metallic signature, weaves of different fabrics and refined finishing using
the brand's know-how and craftmanship make it very special," the spokesman said.

It is made of 81 per cent polyamide and 19 per cent elastane. The elastane is the secret weapon, being more resistant to body oils and perspiration than rubber.

"It has excellent elongation and elastic recovery and its ability to stretch is important, along with the flexibility, abrasion resistance and strength."

China Hails Climate Change Agreement

VOA News Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi says the accord was a positive step forward in recognizing different responsibilities between emerging and rich nations.

The Copenhagen accord was approved Saturday after marathon negotiations by the United States, China, India, Brazil and South Africa.

The accord says greenhouse gases and other emissions by all nations must be reduced enough to prevent average global temperatures - the key index of global warming - from rising more than two degrees Celsius. However, it does not set specific emissions guidelines for achieving that goal.

China and the United States are the world's biggest contributors to global warming. U.S. President Barack Obama called the accord a "breakthrough" in attempts to control global warming, but he said it still "not enough."

A young PM who's not in such a hurry

Abhisit Vejjajiva, 45, once said that he is a young prime minister and he would be a young former prime minister as well. Although his tenure may not be long, PM Abhisit is confident of making the greatest use of his limited term. He spoke to Nattaya Chetchotiros before he flew to Copenhagen.

The military's secret poll predicts your Democrat Party will win 150 House seats and the opposition will have over 300

You said you might step down from your position before you get old. If that happens, do you think that your presence as the prime minister would be significant enough for people to remember?

That is not the point. We must know that under the present situation, it is difficult for a leader in this world to have a chance to work for a long time. Society and the nation are moving forward.

People of any other generation must have their chances to grow too.

Are you not confident of the next general election?

No one can predict the result of an election.

You seem not to accept any poll result that is negative to your party's popularity. The military's secret poll predicts your Democrat Party will win 150 House seats and the opposition will have over 300.

Rethink this arms buildup

Vietnam has made a new and huge purchase of weapons from its old Russian friends, and it seems more likely to increase regional tension and restart an arms race than to promote peace. The secrecy of the deal is at least equally unfortunate. News of the purchase of submarines and advanced fighter jets leaked out of Europe, and even then authorities in Hanoi simply kept mum. This is the first significant arms purchase within the region since Vietnam joined Asean. Hanoi has a lot of explaining to do.

Press reports last week from Russia said the major arms purchase totalled some US$2 billion (70 billion baht), and was finalised during a visit to Moscow by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. Mr Dung confirmed in an offhand remark at a press conference he had agreed to purchase weapons, but gave no details. Sources in Moscow indicate he made a major buy. It is worrying because the squadron of SU30 fighter jets he bought is highly advanced compared with other regional air forces.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Obama Urges World to Unite Behind Climate Pact as Talks Falter

U.S. President Barack Obama joined world leaders from over 100 countries for the final sessions of the U.N. Climate Change conference in Copenhagen. As negotiations drew to a close, no new compromise proposals were evident and talk turned to forging a political commitment with details of measures to be taken left for future negotiations.

"We can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, continue to refine it and build upon its foundation," said U.S. President Barack Obama

Photo: AP

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the morning plenary session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference at the Bella Center in Copenhagen, Denmark, 18 Dec 2009

"We can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, continue to refine it and build upon its foundation," said U.S. President Barack Obama.

Addressing the gathering of world leaders President Obama urged them to put aside differences and agree on a plan of action.

Tribunal charges Khieu Samphan with genocide

Former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan has been charged with genocide, a spokesman for Cambodia’s UN-backed war crimes court said Friday.

Lars Olsen said Khieu Samphan had been notified of the charge in a meeting with investigating judges Friday morning.

The tribunal announced earlier this week that Khmer Rouge Brother No 2 Nuon Chea and foreign minister Ieng Sary had been charged with genocide, marking the first time the charge had been brought against regime leaders by an internationally sanctioned court.

As with Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary, the genocide charge against Khieu Samphan stems from the regime’s treatment of Vietnamese and the Cham Muslim minority group, Olsen said.

All three men, who had previously been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, were also informed this week that they are now facing charges of homicide, torture and religious persecution under the 1956 Cambodian penal code, which was in effect during the regime.

Prosecutors in September requested that judges clarify the charges against the five regime leaders being held at the tribunal, including Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, whose trial ended in November. Olsen said Friday that a meeting with former minister of social action Ieng Thirith was scheduled for next week.

No decision has been made on whether to indict the four leaders awaiting trial, let alone on what charges they might face. Judges are expected to conclude their investigation for the tribunal’s second case in the next few weeks.

Between 100,000 and 400,000 Cham Muslims died during the regime, according to figures provided by Documentation Centre of Cambodia Director Youk Chhang, who added that it is unclear how many Vietnamese were killed.

KR killings revealed, by accident

A KHMER Rouge tribunal staffer on Thursday provided estimated death tolls for security centres and execution sites related to the ongoing investigation of five regime leaders, going far beyond what had previously been made public in a presentation that the court later described as unauthorised.

Hang Vannak, the complaint and applications manager for the court’s Victims’ Unit, delivered his presentation on the scope of the investigation before an audience of 400 civil party applicants at the tribunal.

Judges in November distributed a list of 20 execution sites, security centres, cooperatives and work sites throughout 16 provinces that were being investigated, but provided little information on the types and scale of specific crimes committed at any of them.

On Thursday, however, Hang Vannak went methodically through the list, describing how victims were killed at each site and, in some cases, providing estimates of the number of mass graves and total casualties.

Richard Rogers, chief of the court’s Defence Support Section, expressed concern that the presentation could have compromised the confidentiality of the investigation of the four regime leaders awaiting trial: Brother No 2 Nuon Chea, foreign minister Ieng Sary, head of state Khieu Samphan and social action minister Ieng Thirith.

“If this information came from the OCIJ investigation, then it is a serious and blatant breach of the confidentiality requirement,” said Rogers.

Thailand preparing military action against Cambodia: Pheu Thai MP

An opposition MP yesterday accused the government of planning military force against Cambodia if Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thaksin Shinawatra took any action deemed to violate Thai sovereignty.
This would include establishment of a government in exile for Thaksin on Cambodian soil.

Pheu Thai MP Jatuporn Prompan said the military option was suggested in a confidential paper Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya sent to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on November 16 as a guideline for handling the conflict with Cambodia in a worstcase scenario.

"Preparation of a military option is equivalent to preparing for war against Cambodia," Jatuporn said.

"The end game is the normalisation of relations rather than regime change," Jatuporn quoted Kasit as saying in the leaked paper.

Friday, December 18, 2009

WHO: Premature to Call Swine Flu Pandemic Over

A senior WHO official says the virus is expected to continue circulating for some time to come and countries should continue to take steps to protect their populations.

The World Health Organization says it is too soon to call the H1N1, Swine Flu pandemic over. A senior WHO official says the virus is expected to continue circulating for some time to come and countries should continue to take steps to protect their populations.

The H1N1 influenza pandemic has been around for about eight months, but in some places the spread of the virus is not as widespread as some had feared. The World Health Organization says this is not long enough to be able to consider the pandemic over.

WHO notes the pandemic is a global event, not a regional one. Since the virus is spreading around the world, it says it is normal for the illness to be more severe in some places than in others.

For example, WHO finds infections are continuing at quite high levels in some parts of Europe, such as France and Switzerland, in parts of Central Asia and in some large countries, such as Russia.

US Pledges to Work Toward $100 Billion Global Climate Fund for Poor

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States will work with other nations to establish a $100 billion a year fund for climate financing for poor countries. She made the announcement at the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen.

"The United States is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries," Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State Clinton says the United States wants a comprehensive and operational new agreement to come out of the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives for a press briefing at the climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, 17 Dec 2009

She said an agreement must include commitments from all major economies to take decisive action to cut greenhouse gas emissions and strong standards for full transparency over those efforts.

If that can be accomplished, Clinton said the United States will make significant contributions.

"The United States is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries," Clinton said.

Genocide charges laid at KRT

GENOCIDE charges have been issued against Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary, a spokesman for the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal said Wednesday, marking the first time that former regime leaders have faced the charge in an internationally sanctioned court.

I don't think you can find any proof.... the intent issue is the key thing, and you can’t get the smoking gun."

Photo by: DC-CAM

Khmer Rouge leaders during the regime, including Nuon Chea (front, second from left) and Ieng Sary (third from left, smiling).

The charge stems from crimes specifically targeting Vietnamese – both in Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces, and during border incursions into Vietnam – and the Cham Muslim minority group, UN court spokesman Lars Olsen said, adding that the two men and their lawyers were notified of the charges in meetings earlier this week.

Prosecutors in September requested that co-investigating judges clarify the charges against the five regime leaders being held at the tribunal, including Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, whose trial ended in November and is awaiting verdict.

From the Khmer Rouge tribunal, Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary (left) and Brother No 2 Nuon Chea. AFP

Meetings with Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan and social action minister Ieng Thirith are set for the end of this week and the beginning of next week, Olsen said.

Ieng Sary and Nuon Chea had previously been charged with crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. They learned in the meetings this week that they would also be charged with homicide, torture and religious persecution under the 1956 Cambodian penal code, which was in effect during the regime.

Little will change : Suthep

Govt will stick to its stance if Hun Sen ignores the conditions: Suthep Thaugsuban, Deputy PM
We will wait until Thailand has a new administration before normal relations can be resumed, PM Hun Sen
Relations with Cambodia will not improve soon because Thailand is not yet ready to change its stance, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said yesterday.

"If the conditions are not changed, relations would remain the same for a period of time," he said.

Thailand has set as a prerequisite Cambodia removing fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra from his position of adviser to the Cambodian government and extraditing him to Bangkok if the country wants ties to be normalised. Thaksin's appointment is seen as interference in domestic affairs and an insult to the Thai justice system.

However, Cambodia has refused to follow any of the conditions, with Prime Minister Hun Sen saying that he will wait until Thailand has a new administration before normal relations can be resumed.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Teen starlet victim of acid attack in capital

TWO assailants on a motorcycle doused a 16-year-old talent-show winner with half a litre of acid on Tuesday morning – the second such incident in Phnom Penh in less than a week – leading to a fresh call to regulate the its sale in Cambodia.

Hang Srey Leak, 16, was at a hairdresser’s salon on Street 84 in Daun Penh district when two people pulled up on a motorcycle and poured acid over her body, district police said.

She is being treated at Calmette Hospital for burns on her face, back and leg, police said, although her condition is not thought to be serious.

Ziad Samman, of the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity, said 10 acid attacks had been reported to the organisation so far this year. He called on the government to prevent further attacks by introducing strict guidelines for the sale of acid.

“One possible way to prevent attacks is to stop them before they start,” he said. “One of the reasons that help contribute to acid attacks is because it’s so readily accessible. One of the things worth looking into is a regulation of acid, so it would make people selling acid more accountable.”

But Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said the authorities found it “too difficult” to control the use of acid in the Kingdom. “It is impossible to ask sellers to tell their customers to get a prescription to buy acid,” he said. “What we must do is arrest the perpetrators.”

Ultimatum from both sides of the fence: Thailand Vs Cambodia

They believe - wrongly- that if Thailand delays settlement on Preah Vihear until February next year, the World Heritage Committee would remove the temple from its listing.

The Nation, 17/12/2009

Normalisation of bilateral relations between Thailand and Cambodia remains an uphill task at this moment as both sides continue to enjoy - for domestic consumption - political benefits from the dispute.

The Thai government has set conditions for normalisation of relations - Cambodia must respect the Thai judiciary; stop interference in Thailand's internal affairs; and remove fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra from the position of adviser to the Cambodian government.
Cambodia, on the other hand, says it wants Thailand to return its ambassador to Phnom Penh, otherwise relations can never get back on track.

The Thai government reply is it would not return its ambassador to resume duty as long as Thaksin remained an adviser to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, and continued to avoid extradition to face punishment following his conviction in Thailand for corruption.

Thaksin has been at the core of the bad relations between the two countries since Hun Sen gave him the economic adviser's post in October. But even before this, feelings had been bad due to the conflict over the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear.

The two governments intentionally put the Thaksin issue into the context of bilateral relations because they wanted to use the issue to boost popularity at home and cover their respective administrative failures.

Abhisit: Thailand may make se of siezed weapons

Thailand may make use of certain types of weapons seized from a Georgian-registered cargo plane instead of destroying them as required by a UN protocol, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday

He said technical explanations regarding the matter would be given by officials responsible for the protocol process.

Asked by reporters to clarify his remarks on further on use of the weapons, he simply said: "If we don't need to demolish them, we can make use of them."

Asked if seizing the weapons would put the Kingdom at risk of terrorist attack, he said: "Thailand does not get itself involved at the centre of any conflict. We're just following a UN protocol, and all countries involved [in this operation] have a good understanding of it."

Asked what Thailand would gain from this action, the prime minister said: "Everyone benefits from us following a UN protocol. If we had failed to act, and these weapons were later found to have travelled through Thailand, we'd pay a price for that. What is needed is for us to prove to the world that we are a good member [of the UN] without getting ourselves into the centre of any conflict whatsoever."

I didn't pressure kamrob : Kasit

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya yesterday denied ever instructing Kamrob Palawatwichai, then first secretary of the Thai Embassy in Cambodia, to spy on the flight of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to Phnom Penh.

"Kamrob has performed his normal duty to process the extradition of convicted Thaksin in accordance with Thai judicial enforcement," Kasit said in a statement.

The procedure is the same treatment the ministry has to apply to every convicted fugitive who runs away from justice, he said. Finance wizard Rakesh Saxena was no different.

As Thaksin was confirmed as having arrived in Phnom Penh, the Thai Embassy had to report the information back to the ministry so the Attorney General's Office could be informed to commence seeking his return, he said.

The opposition Pheu Thai Party and Thai engineer Sivarak Chutipong, who was pardoned after being sentenced to seven years in jail for leaking Thaksin's flight schedule to Kamrob, have demanded Kamrob explain why he had to ask the engineer to share such information and who was behind him.

Thaksin said on Tuesday that Kamrob was assigned by his boss in Bangkok to seek his flight details and the diplomat reported back to Bangkok immediately upon obtaining the intelligence from Sivarak.

UN-backed court issues K.Rouge genocide charges

Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court has for the first time issued genocide charges against two leaders of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, a tribunal spokesman said Wednesday.
Kaing Guek Eav, known by the alias Duch, who was charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and premeditated murder in the court's first trial.

The skulls of victims are piled up on display at the Choeung Ek memorial stupa close to Phnom Penh.

Cambodia's UN-backed warcrimes court has for the first time issued genocide charges against two leaders of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, a tribunal spokesman said Wednesday.

Former Khmer Rouge number two Nuon Chea and foreign minister Ieng Sary were both charged over the hardline communist regime's slaughter of Vietnamese people and ethnic Cham muslims during the 1970s, spokesman Lars Olsen told AFP.

"This week both Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary have been brought before the investigating judges and informed they are being charged with genocide against the Cham muslims and the Vietnamese," Olsen said.

"This is the first time that anyone has been charged with genocide" at the UN-backed tribunal, he added.

Kasit defends ministry, Kamrob in Sivarak case

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said relations between Bangkok and Phnom Penh would never improve as long as Thaksin remains in the post of economic adviser to the Cambodian government

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya has defended the role of the Foreign Ministry and Kamrob Palawatwichai, first secretary to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, in the events surrounding Thai 'spy' Sivarak Chutipong.

In a written statement issued on Wednesday, Mr Kasit said the Foreign Ministry congratulated Mr Sivarak and his family on his being granted a royal pardon after being convicted of espionage for supplying information on former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's flight schedule to the Thai government.

He said the ministry had never accused Mr Sivarak or his family of staging the case. The ministry and its officials knew well that Mr Sivarak was in trouble and entitled to assistance and had done what they could to help him.

The minister denied he had ordered Mr Kamrob to use Mr Sivarak as a tool for spying, or to do anything else beyond the duty of a diplomat.

Mr Kamrob only performed his duty by trying to get information on Thaksin's whereabouts and report it to the Foreign Ministry, so that it could coordinate with the Office of the Attorney-General to seek the extradition of the fugitive former prime minister, Mr Kasit said in his statement.

Mr Sivarak has called for Mr Kamrob to publicly explain his role, but Mr Kasit said it was not the Foreign Ministry's usual practice to require its officials to explain their work to the public.

He said both Mr Sivarak and Mr Kamrob were innocent people who happened to become political victims.

High intakes of coffee, tea linked to reduce risk of Diabetes

High intakes of coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and tea are associated with a reduced risk for type 2 diabetes
December 14, 2009 — High intakes of coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and tea are associated with a reduced risk for type 2 diabetes, according to the results of a meta-analysis reported in the December 14/28 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"Coffee consumption has been reported to be inversely associated with risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus," write Rachel Huxley, D.Phil, of the George Institute for International Health, University of Sydney in Sydney, Australia, and colleagues. "Similar associations have also been reported for decaffeinated coffee and tea. We report herein the findings of meta-analyses for the association between coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and tea consumption with risk of diabetes."

Using a combined text word and MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) search strategy, the investigators identified relevant studies through search engines. Inclusion criteria were prospective studies published between 1966 and July 2009 and reporting an estimate of the association between coffee, decaffeinated coffee, or tea with incident diabetes.

There were 18 studies, enrolling a total of 457,922 participants, reporting on the association between coffee consumption and diabetes. Of these, 6 (N = 225,516) also reported estimates of the association between decaffeinated coffee with diabetes, and 7 studies (N = 286,701) also reported estimates of the association between tea and diabetes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The biggest loser

Bangkok Post All eyes will now be on the Thai "spy" Sivarak Chutipong as he is back in his homeland. Politicians will surround him hoping to take credit for his freedom. Some people will look at him and see the perfect victim, the guy who was at the wrong place at the wrong time, the biggest loser in this power struggle with no rules of engagement.

If the flight data was public information (as it obviously was) why did its staff have to bother Sivarak in the first place?

I feel sympathy for Sivarak but I do not think he is the "biggest loser". There certainly are many bigger buffoons in this diplomatic brouhaha: Former premier Thaksin, who feels the need to serve as Cambodia's economic adviser just to irk the Abhisit government. PM Abhisit, who overplayed the part a little when he proposed that the Thai-Cambodian Memorandum of Understanding be torn up. PM Hun Sen, who's orchestrated the Thai domestic strife for his own benefit so ostensibly it makes some people wonder if he were a member of the Thai opposition party. And members of the opposition party, who've been scurrying around like hungry rats at the smell of cheese as they try to cash in as much as possible on the suffering of both Sivarak and his mother.

Sivarak has paid the price of fulfilling his duty as a "good citizen" by spending sleepless nights in a Cambodian jail. Now, shouldn't FM Kasit pay for the less than foolproof operation at his ministry, too?

If I have to choose only one person who stands to lose the most from this sorry saga, it would be Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs can blame Hun Sen as much as it likes about the seemingly unnecessary conviction, and later pardon, of the Thai man. But it cannot escape its share of responsibility.

It can go on defending itself reasoning that the information it reportedly asked Sivarak to pass on to its staff - Thaksin's flight data - was in the public domain and therefore not classified. It can claim Phnom Penh was being childish and acting up. It can come up with any number of excuses. But it should also know that it does not have total deniability in this matter.

If the flight data was public information (as it obviously was) why did its staff have to bother Sivarak in the first place? It's true that the claim is according to Sivarak's testimony to the Phnom Penh court, but the ministry has neither confirmed nor denied the allegation. It has not come out to clearly state what actually happened: did it, or did it not ask Sivarak to supply the information? With the tension between the two countries making headlines every day, there is also this question: Shouldn't our Foreign Ministry know better than to put one of our citizens at risk?

So, PM Hun Sen is as much to blame as the Thai government in cooking up the spy charge; but as head of the organisation whose staff was implicated in the arrest and trial of a fellow Thai man without adequate reason or clear defence, FM Kasit should show his spirit.

Out of the frying pan into the fire?

Bangkok Post Spy or Tool
The B-grade spying soup opera ended abruptly in the same amazing fashion that it started with the convicted Thai spy now out of jail and due to fly home this evening, but this doesn't mean the end of the show, as the Puea Thai Party is intent to making use of him for political gain.

In a news blog on Friday, Khmerization, the whole drama was played out like a soup opera on prime time television.

In the blog, the script was written and directed by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen himself.

According to the script, the Puea Thai party was supposed to play the hero’s role in securing the release of Mr Sivarak, who was found guilty of spying on former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and by the Cambodian court last Tuesday and sentenced to seven years imprisonment and a 10 million riel fine (about 82,500 baht).

It went on to say the drama was a political and diplomatic game set up to canvass political support back home for Hun Sen and for used as a diplomatic cudgel against Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in retaliation for his action against Cambodia over the appointment of Thaksin as the government's economic adviser.

I could not agree more with the opinion expressed in Khmerization.

Irate Sivarak demands answers

Pressure is mounting on the government and the Foreign Ministry to take responsibility for the arrest and conviction of Sivarak Chutipong who returned to Thailand yesterday.

Sivarak Chutipong gives his mother, Simarak na Nakhon Phanom, a kiss on the cheek at Suvarnabhumi airport yesterday on his return from Cambodia. SOMCHAI POOMLARD

Mr Sivarak was the first to attack Thai authorities, demanding that Kamrob Palawatwichai, the first secretary of the Thai embassy in Cambodia, speak out and restore his damaged reputation by confirming he was not involved in a government attempt to get the flight schedule of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The Puea Thai Party which, with the help of de facto leader Thaksin, pushed hard to get a pardon for Mr Sivarak after he was convicted last week by a Phnom Penh court for spying, vowed to take the issue to parliament to grill the government during the censure debate next month.

Yesterday the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, chaired by the opposition party, made further moves on the issue by demanding Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and Mr Kamrob appear before it to clarify the spying allegations.