Cambodian PM Calls Border Clashes "Real War"

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Wednesday that the recent clashes with Thailand in the disputed border areas were "a real war".

"This is the real war, not the military clash," he said while closing the annual conference of the Ministry of Commerce. "Thailand created this war. (Thai Prime Minister) Abhisit must be responsible for the war."

Hun Sen accused Thai troops of firing cluster bomb at Cambodian troops. "Our war with Thailand will be taking long time," he said.

Hun Sen also called for international mediation in bilateral negotiations. "There will be no more bilateral talks, and all negotiations will be participated by the third party," he said, adding that "now bilateral mechanism is worthless, so it need international mechanism."

"Thai government should not be afraid of international mechanism," the premier said.

Cambodia and Thailand have had border conflict just a week after Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was awarded World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008.

The conflict is due to Thai claim of the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the temple, triggering a military build-up along the border, and periodic clashes between Cambodian and Thai soldiers have resulted in casualties of troops on both sides.

The latest four-day clashes on Feb. 4-7 have already left both sides' soldiers dead or wounded, at the same time, tens of thousands of the two countries' villagers nearby the disputed areas fled to safe shelters.

Avian Flu Results in the Death of a Five Year Old Cambodian Girl

Avian Flu Results in the Death of a Five Year Old Cambodian GirlAn announcement made by the World Health Organization on Wednesday has informed that the dreaded bird flu has resulted in the death of a girl. The deceased has been identified as a five-year old girl from the African country of Cambodia. The death is the first fatality caused by the virus, since the last fatality, which was reported in the beginning of 2010.

The girl had fallen ill on the 30th of January in the capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. The girl was hospitalized immediately and was taken to a hospital with coughing and shortness of breath. Following the suffering, she breathed her last on the 4th of January.

A joint statement released by the Cambodian Government and the WHO has stated that the girl was receiving treatment in an ICU, but, died 12-hours after she was admitted because of complications that arose because of the illness. The girl has been identified as the 9th fatality caused by the virus since 2003 and is also the 11th Cambodian to be inflicted with the virus.

The Cambodian authorities have already started to look out for people, who might have been exposed to the virus and has started to take preventive measures among those identified.

Meanwhile, the Cambodian Health Minister, Mam Bun Heng, has requested people with underlying ailments to seek medical help, if they have come in contact with a dead or sick poultry bird.

UNESCO to assess damage to Hindu temple in Cambodia

A weapon is placed on the stone at the entrance of Cambodia's famed Preah Vihear temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia.
APA weapon is placed on the stone at the entrance of Cambodia's famed Preah Vihear temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in Preah Vihear province, Cambodia.

UNESCO plans plans to send a mission to assess the damage caused to the 11th century Shiva temple, a World Heritage site, by the recent armed clashes between Thailand and Cambodia

The United Nations cultural agency plans to send a mission to assess the damage caused to the Preah Vihear Temple, a World Heritage site, by the recent armed clashes between Thailand and Cambodia.

Tensions first escalated between the South-East Asian neighbours in July 2008 following the build-up of military forces near the temple, which dates back to the 11th century and is located on the Cambodian side of the border.

The temple, dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva, was inscribed on the World Heritage List of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) earlier that year.

The temple is composed of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases over an 800-metre-long axis.

The site is exceptional for the quality of its carved stone ornamentation and its architecture, adapted to the natural environment and the religious function of the temple, according to UNESCO.

There have been renewed armed clashes between Thailand and Cambodia in recent days, prompting calls for restraint by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova on Tuesday reiterated her call for calm and restraint around the temple.

“World Heritage sites are the heritage of all humanity and the international community has a special responsibility to safeguard them. This requires a collective effort that must be undertaken in a spirit of consultation and dialogue,” she stated in a news release.

“Heritage should unite people and serve as an instrument of dialogue and mutual understanding and not of conflict.”

Border clashes calm between Thailand and Cambodia

By the CNN Wire Staff
February 9, 2011 -- Updated 1041 GMT (1841 HKT)
Cambodian soldiers deployed at a military base near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple close to the Thai border.
Cambodian soldiers deployed at a military base near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple close to the Thai border.
  • ASEAN official believes there is overwhelming commitment for a peaceful resolution
  • Cambodia handed over a captured Thai soldier on Tuesday
  • ASEAN says 5 people have been killed in the clashes
  • There have long been sporadic clashes over the Preah Vihear temple

Bangkok (CNN) -- Border skirmishes between Thailand and Cambodia over a temple have grown quiet, a Thai military official said Wednesday.

"There has been no gun firing for two days now, the last firing was on Monday," said Col. Shingark Rattanakitti. "The situation in general here is calm, but we are all on high alert."

The development came as the chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations pushed for talks between the two nations to end the deadly clashes.

The issue "can only be addressed bilaterally," Marty M. Natalegawa, who is also the Indonesian foreign minister, said Tuesday. He added that he has the impression, after visiting Phnom Penh and Bangkok, that there is an overwhelming commitment on both sides to "address their issues through peaceful means, through dialogues and negotiations."

The border skirmishes, which started Friday, have killed five people, including members of the military and civilians, a statement from ASEAN said, adding that each nation accuses the other of firing first.

Thailand, Cambodia clash over temple

Gallery: Preah Vihear temple

Thailand's official news agency, MCOT, reported Tuesday, "Since the fighting erupted Friday, one Thai soldier was killed, 25 were wounded and one civilian died in the clashes."

The report added that Cambodia on Tuesday "handed over a Thai soldier captured during the cross border clash."

Cambodia's official news agency, AKP, reported Tuesday that "Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen has sought the United Nations' intervention in arranging a buffer zone" at the border area and wants to make sure the fighting does not expand to other parts of the border.

The U.N. Security Council on Monday expressed "grave concern at aggravation of tensions between Cambodia and Thailand" and said it was willing to hold an emergency meeting requested by Cambodia, but first wanted to wait for regional mediation efforts by the Indonesian foreign minister.

An official Thai report said the two sides had agreed to a ceasefire on Saturday, but skirmishes continued after.

The clashes stem from a longstanding conflict related to the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple. The building sits on a cliff in Cambodian territory, but the most accessible entrance to the site is on the Thai side.

In a letter to the United Nations over the weekend, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said that in addition to the human toll the fighting was taking, the temple had suffered damage.

Conflict over the Preah Vihear site has taken place periodically for years. In 1962, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled that the site was in Cambodia, adding that the structure was "an outstanding masterpiece of Khmer architecture."

But Thailand says the 1.8-square mile (4.7-square kilometer) area around Preah Vihear was never fully demarcated, and blames a map drawn at the beginning of the 20th century during the French occupation of Cambodia.

In July 2008, the United Nations approved Cambodia's application to have the temple listed as a World Heritage Site, meaning the U.N. believes the place has outstanding universal value.

Panich admits bad planning led to detention in Cambodia


Poor preparation is partly to blame for the arrest of seven Thais, including himself, in Cambodia in late December, admits Bangkok MP Panich Vikitsreth.

Mr Panich and six other Thais were detained at Cambodia's Prey Sar prison for nearly a month.

Five of the seven, including Mr Panich, have been freed, after a Cambodian court suspended their jail terms for trespass.

The other two _ Thai Patriots Network coordinator Veera Somkhwamkid and his secretary, Ratree Pipatanapaiboon _ were given six and eight years, respectively, in jail for espionage, an outcome Mr Panich suggests could have been avoided if he had taken more care.

After being freed, Mr Panich, a Democrat MP, visited the Thais whose concerns about border incursions by Cambodian trips prompted his trip in the first place.

At the time of his visit to the border area in Sa Kaeo, Mr Panich said he honestly believed that he was on Thai soil and he was unaware that Thai and Cambodian soldiers assume a line to divide their areas of operations there.

Mr Panich went there after receiving a complaint from Bay Pulsuk, a resident of tambon Khok Sung of Ta Phraya district, Sa Kaeo, that he could not enter his own 23-rai property because it was occupied by Cambodian soldiers.

Mr Panich said he contacted Samdin Lertbutr, a member of the Santi Asoke Buddhism sect, and asked him to take him to the area.

Mr Panich represents the constituency that includes Bung Kum district, where Santi Asoke's headquarters stands.

Mr Samdin asked Mr Panich to pick him and Tainae Mungmajon up at the Santi Asoke base.

Mr Samdin said he would first take Mr Panich to Prachin Buri.

Mr Panich reported his planned trip to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Mr Abhisit agreed with the trip and said Mr Panich should be there because it was an MP's duty and Mr Panich was also a member of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission.

When Mr Panich met Mr Samdin and Mr Tainae, Mr Samdin asked him to pick up the other Thais _ Mr Veera, Ms Ratree and Narumol Chitwaratana.

Mr Panich said he had not previously known the three and he picked them up at the Rong Klua market in Aranyaprathet district of Sa Kaeo.

Mr Samdin wanted Mr Veera to join the trip as he is knew the area. The two women were Mr Veera's aides.

When Cambodian soldiers arrested his delegation, including Kojpollathorn Chusanasevi, Mr Panich's aide, they took the Thais to a pond near their camp.

Cambodian soldiers confiscated their cameras and phones and had them wait there for hours, said Mr Panich.

Ms Ratree pulled out a small camera which had not been confiscated by the authorities and took pictures.

Ms Ratree used this camera as the Cambodian soldiers had taken their other belongings, and Thai authorities summoned there to help them were about to take the delegation back.

Mr Panich held another phone, which had also been overlooked by the Cambodians, which he used to take a picture of Mr Samdin.

Mr Panich said Ms Ratree had just happened to snap a photo at an inappropriate time, but that she only intended to do so to have a souvenir.

The delegation was taken by vehicle to Phnom Penh, a seven-hour trip.

They reached the Cambodian capital at 11pm on Dec 29, when Cambodian authorities took all their remaining belongings, including the camera in Ms Ratree's bag.

The following morning, they were taken to the Phnom Penh municipal court.

Mr Veera told the court that the small camera belonged to him but Ms Ratree told the court on a separate occasion that the camera belonged to her, as she apparently was seeking to protect Mr Veera.

The seven Thais each faced two charges of illegal immigration and illegal entry into a military compound.

By the following day, the Thais were told to put on prisoners' outfits, and Mr Veera and Ms Ratree each faced an additional charge of espionage.

Mr Panich said Cambodian authorities based the third charge against Mr Veera and Miss Ratree on the presence of the camera and the disparity in accounts about who owned it.

Mr Panich said Mr Veera had previously told him that the camera did not work.

That was why Mr Veera shouted to reporters that he had been unfairly charged, because he said he had no intention of spying.

"If Mr Veera [and Miss Ratree] had [only] faced the same charges as me, they would now be free," said Mr Panich.

"They would have been sentenced to nine months in jail, suspended.

"I sympathise with Miss Ratree. She was about to be freed along with the other five of us, but she has faith in Mr Veera and did not want to leave him," Panich said. "We signed a petition for our cases to be finalised as soon as possible but Mr Veera and Miss Ratree signed statements saying they would defend themselves on Feb 1."

The Democrat MP said that while he had told the prime minister about his trip on the day of their arrest, he had neglected to tell Thai security authorities.

Mr Veera had incorrectly assumed that Mr Panich had informed security authorities.

Mr Panich said the jail terms imposed on Mr Veera and Miss Ratree were too harsh.

"I intended to find out why a villager could not enter his own land," he said.

"I thought that if we met Cambodian soldiers at the site, we would still be able to return," Mr Panich said. "I did not expect it would turn out this way.

"Mr Veera understood that I had already spoken to authorities about the trip, clearing it advance.

"Actually I had not. I just wanted to see the villager's land," Mr Panich said.

ASEAN chairman to visit Cambodia soon: government


PHNOM PENH (Xinhua) - Indonesian Foreign Minister R.M. Marty M. Natalegawa, who is also the chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), will pay a one-day official visit to Cambodia soon, according to a press release from the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on Saturday afternoon.

It said that during his stay in Phnom Penh, he will hold a bilateral talks with Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

The statement did not disclose if his visit to Cambodia will discuss about the military clashes between Cambodia and Thailand at the border area near Preah Vihear temple, in his status as the chairman of the ASEAN.

The twice skirmishes on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning between the two neighbors left dozens of troops and locals of the two countries killed and injured.

Koy Kuong, the spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, could not be reached for comments on Saturday.

ASEAN consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008. Just a week after the enlistment, Cambodia and Thailand have had border conflict due to Thai claim of the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the temple, triggering a military build-up along the border, and periodic clashes between Cambodian and Thai soldiers have resulted in the deaths of troops on both sides.

Thailand, Cambodia Reach Ceasefire Agreement After Cross Border Firing

Cambodian soldiers sit at Preah Vihear temple after a brief clash with Thai troops, February 05, 2011
Photo: Reuters

Cambodian soldiers sit at Preah Vihear temple after a brief clash with Thai troops, February 05, 2011

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Thailand and Cambodia agreed to a ceasefire Saturday after renewed fighting in a disputed border region killed at least one soldier.

A tentative ceasefire appeared to be holding late Saturday after Thai and Cambodian troops exchanged artillery fire along their shared border.

Military officials from the two countries blamed each other for the outbreak of hostilities, the first in the region resulting in fatalities in a year.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn says the military has specific rules of engagement that were also communicated to Cambodia.

"We have instructed the military to respond only when attacked to specific military targets only, and the Prime Minister asked the officers in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to communicate this intention clearly to Cambodia,” Panitan said. “The Prime Minister also hopes that we can continue to work with Cambodia in achieving a peaceful solution. Only we regret that we have casualties on both sides."

Fighting broke out late Friday near the 900 year old Preah Vihear temple in a disputed area near the Thai-Cambodia border.

The fighting is the latest flare-up between the neighboring nations over the disputed land and control of the ancient Hindu temple.

Both Cambodia and Thailand have laid claim to the temple. A 1962 World Court ruling awarded it to Cambodia, which also successfully had the temple declared a World Heritage site in 2008. But the exact border near the temple has never been settled, leading to periodic skirmishes.

Tensions have risen in recent days because of demonstrations by influential Thai nationalist groups demanding Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to take a tougher stance in the border dispute.

Political observers say the clashes mark a setback in steps to promote a wider political security and community grouping within the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Both Thailand and Cambodia are ASEAN members.

ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan expressed deep concern over the conflict, calling for and end to the violence and a return to negotiations. Surin said both sides appeared open to some form of mediation by ASEAN.

Shaky truce after fresh fighting


Thailand is cranking up pressure on Cambodia over the disputed Preah Vihear temple, even as a shaky ceasefire holds after the worst border fighting in two years claimed at least five lives.

SOLDIER FALLS: The flag-draped body of Sgt Wutcharin Chartkhamdee, who was killed in the border clashes, arrives at Wat Siriwarawat in Si Sa Ket’s Kantharalak district.

The government reached a ceasefire with Cambodia yesterday after a resumption of border clashes in the morning killed one Thai soldier, taking the Thai toll to two.

Cambodia has said two of its soldiers and one civilian were killed when fighting broke out on Friday, while Thailand said a villager on its side of the border also died.

The resumption of fighting has sent thousands of people living near the border fleeing for safety, and villagers on both sides have been evacuated.

As Cambodia yesterday released four Thai rangers seized when the clashes broke out on Friday, reports emerged that the Preah Vihear temple may have been damaged.

SCHOOL CLOSED: The roof of a school in Si Sa Ket damaged by shells allegedly fired by Cambodian troops.

Television footage showed smoke plumes rising near the temple, which according to Cambodia suffered "serious" damage in the fighting.

Both sides are now taking their case to international tribunals, which could further ratchet up tension along the border.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday the government would seek the suspension of Preah Vihear temple's listing as a Unesco World Heritage site following the flare-up.

The government would also submit a letter to the United Nations Security Council "clarifying" the border clashes.

"I'm asking Thais to support the armed forces in protecting the country's sovereignty," he said, adding that the army would never invade its neighbour.

In Bangkok, a few thousand supporters of the People's Alliance for Democracy gathered near Government House calling on the government to resign for its handling of the Cambodia issue.

Mr Abhisit said the clashes show the border issue is sensitive and any move which could exacerbate tensions should be avoided.

Unesco's World Heritage Committee is scheduled to consider the temple's world heritage listing plan, and a development plan for the surrounding area, at a June meeting in Bahrain.

The prime minister conveyed his condolences to the families of the clash victims and said Thai soldiers were simply defending the country's sovereignty after Cambodian troops opened fire on a Thai military base in the Phu Ma Khua area of Si Sa Ket on Friday.

The renewed gunfire yesterday morning killed one soldier and wounded four others. An exchange of heavy artillery shelling on Friday afternoon left one Thai villager dead and scores of troops injured.

Thai soldiers said the morning clash took place near Huay Ta Maria village when Cambodian forces advanced towards the village and opened fire.

Thai troops retaliated and fighting broke out at two nearby locations of Ban Don-aow pass and a former border patrol base near Pha Mor E-dang.

Army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the renewed fighting killed Sgt Wutcharin Chartkhamdee and left four other soldiers injured.

"We held onto our positions. When Cambodian troops advanced to occupy them, fighting was inevitable," he said.

Second Army commander Lt Thawatchai Samutsakhon led a delegation to meet Cambodia's Military Region 4 commander Lt Gen Chea Mon.

Following the three-hour talks, both sides agreed to stop firing, not to increase their forces in the disputed area, and improve coordination between unit commanders.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya briefed foreign diplomats from 16 countries, after his ministry on Friday said Cambodian troops opened fire from the Preah Vihear temple area at the Thai military, and Phum Saron village.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong has written to the United Nations to draw its attention to the "explosive situation at the border".

In a letter to UN Security Council president Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, he said Cambodian troops had no option but to retaliate in response to "flagrant aggression" by Thai troops.

Col Sansern yesterday admitted the army had reinforced troops and artillery at the border.

Meanwhile, Unesco director-general Irina Bokova expressed her deep concern at the sudden escalation of border tensions.

She called upon both sides to exercise restraint for the sake of the temple and to talk at the highest levels to defuse the tension.

Thai, Cambodian troops in deadly clash near temple

A house burns in a Thai village near a 11th-century Preah Vihear temple at the border between Thailand and Cambodia, February 4, 2011. REUTERS/Stringer


BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai and Cambodian soldiers exchanged fire in a two-hour border clash on Friday that killed two Cambodian soldiers and a Thai villager, the latest in an ancient feud over land surrounding a 900-year-old Hindu temple.

The fatalities were the first in the militarised border area since a Thai soldier was shot dead a year ago and could rekindle diplomatic tensions between the Southeast Asian neighbours over the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Cambodia would file a complaint with the U.N. Security Council, accusing Thailand of invading Cambodian territory.

Both sides accused each other of firing first in the 4.6-sq-km (two-sq-mile) disputed area around Preah Vihear, a jungle-clad escarpment claimed by both countries and scene of deadly, sporadic clashes in recent years.

Several Thai soldiers were also wounded and four Thai villages were evacuated, Thai media reported. Five Thai soldiers were captured, said army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd.

"It seems to have been a result of a misunderstanding," Thai army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters. "There is no point in fighting because it could escalate and damage relations... We don't want that."

The Cambodian government accused the Thai army of targeting Cambodian villagers and said the fighting erupted when Thai soldiers illegally entered Cambodia territory.

"We said to them 'don't come in the area' and they still came. We fired into the air and they began to shoot at us," said Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith.


The clash comes three days after a Cambodian court handed down jail terms of six and eight years to two Thai nationalists found guilty of trespassing and spying in the border region, a verdict that has angered some in Thailand.

Shelling began at about 3 p.m. (8:00 a.m. British time) and continued into early evening. Artillery shells landed at several villages on the Thai side, setting at least four houses on fire, witnesses said.

A Thai police colonel, Chatchawan Kaewchandee, said at least one villager was killed during the shelling. "We found one body of a male villager and there might be more," he said.

The fighting could give a boost to a small but prolonged protest by Thailand's "yellow shirt" activists demanding Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva take a tougher line against Cambodia.

Chamlong Srimuang, a yellow shirt leader, said his group would step up pressure on the government, saying the fighting showed that Abhisit was weak in handling border tensions.

"We have warned about this sort of thing for a long time. We didn't call for a clash just for the government to show our military strength precisely to prevent any clash from taking place," he told reporters.

2 die as Thai, Cambodian troops battle at border

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodian and Thai troops battled for two hours Friday along a disputed stretch of their shared border, trading artillery fire that killed at least two people near an 11th century temple that is a UN World Heritage Site.

The fighting was some of the fiercest in years between the two southeast Asian countries. Tensions between the neighbors have been exacerbated in recent days by pressure from powerful Thai nationalist groups, which have been staging protests in Bangkok urging the government to reclaim the land.

While a cease-fire was quickly reached and full-blown war unlikely, the territorial dispute remains volatile, with nationalist passions inflamed on both sides — and no clear way to settle it.

One Thai villager was killed and four Thai troops were slightly injured, Thai army spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd said. In Cambodia, privately owned Bayon TV reported that one Cambodian soldier was killed and five were wounded.

Fighting breaks out between Thai and Cambodian troops (1st Lead)

Feb 4, 2011


Bangkok/Phnom Penh - The Thai military said Friday that Cambodian forces had fired artillery rounds into Thailand near Preah Vihear temple on the joint border, while the Cambodian side blamed Thai troops.

Thai radio reports said an estimated 20 shells landed on Thailand's side of the border in Kantalarak district in Si Sa Ket province, 350 kilometres east of Bangkok.

'We can confirm that there has been a clash, but we are still checking the details,' said army spokesman Colonel Sansern Keowkhamnerd.

The Thai army was reportedly bulldozing a road in the border area, which has been the subject of numerous spats over the past two and a half years.

A spokesman for the Cambodian government blamed fighting on Thai troops.

Phay Siphan claimed Thai soldiers had crossed 500 metres into Cambodian territory and opened fire despite the efforts of Cambodian troops to avoid violence.

He said fighting had begun at 3 pm (0800 GMT) and was ongoing more than an hour later.

Phay Siphan said fighting was underway near Keo Sikha Kirisvara temple, which Thailand claims stands on disputed territory.

There was no word on casualties.

Bangkok recently insisted that Cambodia remove a flag flying over the temple, a demand that Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong rejected earlier on Friday after a meeting with his Thai counterpart.

The clashes come hours after Hor Namhong and Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya wrapped up a meeting stating that a recent build-up of troops would not lead to violence.

Thai and Cambodian forces have faced off along the mountain range around the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple since July 2008, when UNESCO declared the edifice a World Heritage Site despite Thai objections.

Although the World Court in 1962 ruled that the temple belonged to Cambodia, Thailand claims a 4.6-square-kilometre plot of land adjacent to the temple, and has blocked Cambodian's efforts to turn the site into a tourism attraction until the border dispute is settled.

Troops exchange fire on Thai-Cambodia border

A Cambodian flag flutters at the Preah Vihear temple
Cambodia secured the World Heritage listing of the ancient Preah Vihear temple in 2008

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Thai and Cambodian soldiers have exchanged fire on a disputed stretch of their border near an ancient Hindu temple, claimed by both countries.

A Thai military spokesman confirmed that "sporadic shelling" had taken place in the disputed zone.

Tension has been rising in the region in recent days - with both sides moving in more troops.

It is the latest in a series of shooting incidents in the Preah Vihear region over the past three years.

A Cambodian government spokesman told the BBC that the shooting started at about 1500 local time (0800 GMT).

He blamed the encroachment of Thai soldiers on Cambodian territory for the fighting - and said a similar incident had only narrowly been avoided on Thursday.

Witnesses in the area said that Thai troops had attacked a Cambodian Buddhist pagoda in a border area claimed by both sides.

There has been tension in the region ever since Cambodia secured the World Heritage listing of the ancient Preah Vihear temple in 2008.

This caused joy in Cambodia, and anguish in Thailand - which once claimed the temple.

This week there has been a build-up of troops and armoured vehicles along the border, as both sides have accused one another of encroachment.

Cambodian, Thai troops exchange gunfire at border area

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- Clash between Cambodian and Thai troops near the 11th century temple was still on at 4:30 p.m. on Friday and the Cambodian troops have arrested 5-6 Thai troops, said military sources.

"Now, we have arrested 5-6 Thai troops and some raised hands to defect," said a soldier standby at the area of Preah Vihear temple. "Thai side has asked us to do negotiation."

Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh told Xinhua through phone on Friday that "We have warned them not to enter our territory, but they still violated and entered, so we opened fire to defend our territory."

He added that heavy weapons including rockets, machine guns, mortars and artillery have been used in the exchange of fire.

"It's too early to report about the deaths and wounds in the clash," said Tea Banh.

The clash started at 3:15 p.m. on Friday afternoon as Thai bulldozers tried to clear the way at the border and enter Cambodia territory and Cambodian troops prevented them from moving into Cambodia at Beehive area in front of Preah Vihear temple, but they did not listen to, "so military clash happened to protect our territory," said the soldier.

The incident was the latest in a long-festering dispute over the cliff-top Preah Vihear temple.

The incident coincided with the visit of Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya in Cambodia to attend the 7th meeting of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation.

The re-tension between Cambodia and Thailand over the border happened on Jan. 27 after Thailand asked Cambodia to remove a national flag over Wat Keo Sikha Kiri Svarak pagoda near Preah Vihear temple, claiming that the pagoda is on the disputed area, but the Cambodian side rejected it.

Cambodia has the Preah Vihear temple enlisted as World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008. Just a week after the enlistment, Cambodia and Thailand had border conflict over the Thai claim of ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the temple, triggering a military build-up along the border, and periodic clashes between Cambodian and Thai soldiers have resulted in the deaths of troops on both sides.

Historic retreat and rise of the Red Army
More than 75 years ago, Mao Zedong led nearly 90,000 soldiers in China’s central Red Army on a grueling trek that has been mythologized as the Long March. For Mao, the journey began in 1934 as the ruling Nationalists and the underdog Communists waged a bitter fight for control of China. The Communists were fleeing from the larger and better-armed Nationalist force. History books say only one out of every five people who started out on the Long March was left at the end, but their survival, against all odds, has become one of the founding legends of Chinese Communism. Officially, the Long March covered 10,000 kilometers. The Red Army soldiers trekked on foot, over difficult routes and circuitous trails. They were often forced to retrace their steps many times, as in the famous four crossings of the Chishui River.

My VOA colleague Nan Zhang and I went along the path of the Long March. We tried to follow the original route as closely as we could, but to save time, we traveled along roads and new highways. In the end, we covered about 7,500 kilometers in three weeks.

The Long March was the focus of the trip, but since the route passed through some of China's poorest and most remote countryside, we also wanted to see how the country’s 800 million peasants cope in the 21st century. We talked to witnesses along the way who saw the Red Army pass through their towns 75 years ago. We found one Long March survivor whose legs were injured in the fighting. We talked to peasants who were stricken by a severe drought this year in the southwestern province of Guizhou. Everywhere we went, peasants told us their lives are better than their parents’ lives were, but they also were eager to discuss their concerns about corruption and growing social inequality. We talked to ethnic Tibetans, who would like to see their religious leader, the Dalai Lama, return from exile in India. We met children who demonstrated their martial arts skills and recited poetry written by the closest figure officially atheistic China has to a god, former leader Mao Zedong.

We traveled on some horrible roads. One day the car suffered three flat tires in the middle of nowhere. We also drove on some freshly paved roads and saw grand highways and road tunnels under construction. By the end of 2008, China had more than 60,000 kilometers of highway, second only to the United States, with ambitious plans to add even more in the next decade. China is a country on the move, and as more roads are built through remote rural areas, social changes will accelerate.

- Stephanie Ho

Hundreds Rally in Bangkok Over Cambodian Border Dispute

A supporter of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) gestures during a rally outside the Government House in Bangkok, 25 Jan 2011
Photo: Reuters

A supporter of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) gestures during a rally outside the Government House in Bangkok, 25 Jan 2011

Hundreds of Thai nationalists staged a rally in Bangkok Tuesday to demand the government take a stronger line in its border dispute with Cambodia.

About 2,000 to 3,000 members of the People's Alliance for Democracy, also known as the Yellow Shirts, took to the streets under the watchful eyes of nearly 4,000 security forces to demand that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva revoke an agreement on the handling of border issues with Cambodia. The protesters' ranks included two smaller nationalist groups.

Five men in possession of unauthorized firearms and explosives were arrested the night before the rally.

The PAD has been generally supportive of Mr. Abhisit's government, which is backed by the military and the monarchy. But they feel it responded too weakly to the arrest by Cambodian forces of seven Thai nationals in a contested border area last month.

Five of the seven were given suspended jail sentences and have returned to Thailand. But an organizer from the nationalist Thai Patriots Network and his secretary remain in Cambodia facing espionage charges.

PAD leaders want the prime minister to renounce a 2000 memorandum of understanding on the handling of border disputes with Cambodia, withdraw from the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO and pressure Cambodian nationals to move out of disputed border areas. UNESCO lies at the heart of a separate border dispute over land near the Preah Vihear temple, which has been declared a world heritage site.

PAD has pledged to continue protests indefinitely, but Mr. Abhisit has already rejected their demands as impractical.

The Yellow Shirts occupied Government House for three months in 2008, departing only when Mr. Abhisit's predecessor was ousted by a court ruling.

PAD is rivaled by the so-called "Red Shirts" who are loyal to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, overthrown in 2006 in a bloodless coup. As many as 27,000 to 30,000 Red Shirts held a rally of their own on Sunday

Southeast Asia facing new 'health crisis'

A Philippine boy is innoculated against measles vaccine in a slum area in Manila. Southeast Asia's 600 million people are facing a raft of new health challenges as the disaster-prone region undergoes some of the world's fastest social change, medical papers published Tuesday said.
A Philippine boy is innoculated against measles vaccine in a slum area in Manila. Southeast Asia's 600 million people are facing a raft of new health challenges as the disaster-prone region undergoes some of the world's fastest social change, medical papers published Tuesday said.
People cover their mouths to try and prevent breathing in toxic fumes in a busy Hong Kong shopping district. Controlling diseases is difficult given the variety of economies and health systems across many Asian nations.
People cover their mouths to try and prevent breathing in toxic fumes in a busy Hong Kong shopping district. Controlling diseases is difficult given the variety of economies and health systems across many Asian nations.

AFP - Southeast Asia's 600 million people are facing a raft of new health challenges as the disaster-prone region undergoes some of the world's fastest social change, medical papers published Tuesday said.

"A health crisis is transpiring right before our eyes," warned a paper in the series, published by The Lancet journal, which said chronic diseases such as cancer now account for 60 percent of deaths in the region.

It was also dubbed a "hotspot" for emerging and difficult-to-control infectious diseases, with outbreaks in avian flu fuelling fears about the possibility of new pandemics spreading from Southeast Asia.

"The pace of demographic change in the region is one of the fastest worldwide, whether it is due to population ageing, fertility decline, or rural to urban migration," said the papers.

"As elsewhere, the disease burden continues to shift from infectious to chronic diseases, yet increased urban population density has created concerns about emerging infectious diseases."

The reports also point to Southeast Asia being one of the world's most disaster-prone regions, with the environment responsible for up to a quarter of all deaths in an area regularly hit by monsoons and typhoons.

Weather phenomena such as El Nino also "intensify the annual variation of the hot and wet climate, leading to droughts, floods and the occurrence of infectious diseases such as malaria and cholera," said one of the papers.

"Climate change could exacerbate the spread of emerging infectious diseases in the region, especially vector-borne diseases linked to rises in temperature and rainfall," such as dengue, it added.

Deforestation and other human encroachment on wildlife habitats were said to heighten the potential for germs to cross species barriers, as they increase interactions between wildlife, humans and livestock.

Controlling these diseases is difficult given the variety of economies and health systems across the nations analysed: Laos, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

City state Singapore, for example, has a gross domestic product per head of $37,500, while in largely rural Laos the equivalent figure is $890.

Political tensions within and between countries "have the potential to further hinder control" of emerging infections, said the papers, which called for improved surveillance of these health threats across the region.

They also called for urgent action to tackle Southeast Asia's "epidemic of non-communicable disease", including heart disease, stemming from environmental factors promoting tobacco use, unhealthy diet and inadequate physical activity.

"Unless nations recognise the problem and take appropriate action, premature death and disability will continue, hindering development where development is needed most."

Volunteer teaching in Cambodia

Volunteer in Cambodia.
Posted by TNT Today

Working as a volunteer teaching English to a group of Cambodian kids must be easy, right? TNT's Carol Driver discovered the reality...

There are 40 beaming faces staring up at me waiting for my next move. Their eyes sparkle and they giggle as I jump up and down on the spot in front of them, attempting to sing “with a moo-moo here and a moo-moo there” from Old MacDonald’s Farm.

I know I look ridiculous, but I’m far from caring. It’s 2pm in Cambodia and it’s a searing 40C. We are crammed into a tiny, non-air-conditioned make-shift classroom in Phnom Penh.

I’m trying desperately to keep their attention as they want to go and play.

Thankfully it works. By the time I add a pig, cat, cow, horse and dog to the story, they’ve got the right idea and start chanting the animal noises.

I manage to make it to the end of the lesson – sweat running down my back.

Destination guide - Cambodia

I’m in the country’s capital city for three weeks as part of a volunteer project, helping the charity Riverkids, which offers children at risk of being trafficked or sold into prostitution, a free education.

On my first day, I’m taken to the slums where many of the kids live. The scenes are heartbreaking. The tiny, wooden shacks balance around mud paths. There are dirty, naked toddlers wandering aimlessly. We see some women working, cooking meals, while most of the men are lying down, watching TV on dated, black-and-white screens. Many of them have drink and drug problems.

The children look helpless. It’s easy to see how celebrities such as Madonna and Angelina Jolie think they’re helping communities by adopting children. But it’s charities such as Riverkids that are really stopping the cycle of poverty.

Volunteer as an English teacher in Cambodia

I’m staying at a guesthouse with around 15 other volunteers who are all placed at various locations across the city.

My project is a 25-minute hair-raising tuk-tuk ride away, weaving in and out of the chaotic traffic on lawless roads. In the classroom, volunteers prepare their own lessons. It’s an early start
– my day kicks off at 7.30am with a group of nine to 15-year-olds.

As I walk into the classroom, the students stand and chant “Good morning teacher” in Khmer and then English, as they clasp their hands together in the traditional respectful greeting.

After English is computer studies – but, as Riverkids doesn’t have the resources to buy an electricity generator, and there’s a power cut every day, the lessons are always cut short.

With no electricity, there are also no fans, and the intense heat makes it increasingly difficult to concentrate.

During breaks, the children rush out into the dirt-floor playground, without a care in the world, and engage in boisterous games or sing and dance.

They chase each other, pulling one another to the floor. There are scrapes and hits as well as bruises and cuts as they get into the spirit of the game – but not once do any of them cry.

Commercially, Cambodia is growing as a traveller destination. However, due to political instability which ended only recently, it’s far behind neighbouring Thailand in terms of popularity. But tourists can help in terms of bringing money to the country.

In Phnom Penh, Friends and The Lazy Gecko cafe are two restaurants serving great local food which also help support charities. And there are great bars and restaurants around the Riverside and Lakeside areas.

To really immerse yourself in the country’s culture, you have to understand its turbulent past.

The only way to see firsthand the devastation the Cambodian people have endured is by visiting the haunting Tuol Sleng Museum and Killing Fields.

The museum is a former school used by ex-dictator Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime as a security prison where from 1975 to 1979, between one and two million people were held, starved and tortured, and then sent to their deaths in the Killing Fields.

The photos of the prisoners on the walls make for grim viewing and drives home just how recent the country’s turmoil was. For less emotive sightseeing, visit Wat Phnom temple or the National Museum, home to a fine collection of Khmer art.

Back at Riverkids for my afternoon class, I raid the charity’s limited storeroom for supplies for my last lesson.

It’s art and singing with children as young as three – some of whom speak no English, so communicating with them is difficult.

The classroom is a 15-minute walk and, although it’s a struggle carrying bags filled with paper and paints, it’s a great way to meet the locals, who are friendly – greeting me with curious smiles and acknowledgements of “hello teacher”.

Despite the fun element attached to these classes, I find them the most stressful lessons. Controlling 40 demanding children who are armed with paint, water and fingers – and who don’t understand English – isn’t easy.

I spend the next hour running around, clearing up spilt water, helping children who have difficulty drawing. At the end of the lesson, the children playfully smear colours down each other’s faces and in one another’s hair.

I shrug my shoulders and laugh as the kids line up at the small sink to wash their hands and faces.

Exhausted, I make the journey to meet with the other volunteers, who are also tired and stressed, and we talk about how difficult our days were and what went wrong during our lessons.

As I pull a text book from my bag, a note slips out. “I love you teacher from Srey Mai,” it reads, and it puts a smile on my face.

It’s then I realise why “voluntourism” is growing so much in popularity – more of us now want to do something useful during our holidays, to immerse ourselves in a culture and country rather than just the hotel swimming pool.

While it’s ultimately the students who I want to benefit from my time in Cambodia, I can’t help think that it’s the children – with their robust attitudes and camaraderie despite their deprived pasts and uncertain futures – who have taught me the greater lesson. And that’s what makes it so rewarding.

WHEN TO GO: Dry season runs from November to April.
GETTING THERE: Qantas (with partner Jetstar Asia) offers flights from London to Phom Penh via Singapore. Fares start from £862 (including taxes) for travel April 8 – June 15. See
GETTING AROUND: On the back of a motorbike, or there are tuk-tuks as well as taxis. Make sure you barter though.
VISAS: Required but available on arrival.
CURRENCY: Riel, although Cambodians prefer American dollars. 1 GBP = 1.6 USD = 6 RL
GOING OUT: A beer costs $2.
ACCOMMODATION: Shared accommodation is included in the i-to-i Meaninful Travel’s Teaching English in Cambodia course, which runs from four to six weeks, priced from £860.

Hun Sen spooks critics

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Prime Minister Hun Sen inaugurates the US$43.5 million Cambodia-China Prek Tamak Friendship Bridge in Kandal province during a ceremony yesterday.
Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday criticised his political opponents for not acknowledging the government’s accomplishments in improving the country’s infrastructure, warning them that ungrateful critics could be hit by a so-called “guardian spirit”.

Speaking at the inauguration of the Cambodia-China Prek Tamak Friendship Bridge in Kandal province, the premier said that certain people have not recognised the government’s achievements in building roads and bridges, even though they have benefited from the projects.

“You are also walking on the streets, so be careful: The guardian spirit will hit you, the guardian spirit’s [magic] is strong now,” Hun Sen said.

Hun Sen added that newly constructed bridges and roads were not intended only for the use of the supporters of the Cambodian People’s Party.

“It is quite difficult to blow a flute to the cow; they cannot listen,” he said of his critics, pointing to the country’s progress since the downfall of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979.

“Compare things with 1979, what we had at that time and what we have at this time.”

Speaking at the inauguration of the bridge, Pan Guangxue, China’s ambassador to Cambodia, said the US$43.5
million Cambodia-China Prek Tamak Friendship Bridge, was the third Chinese-funded bridge to open in Cambodia, after the Cambodia-China Sekong Friendship Bridge in Stung Treng province and Cambodian-China Prek Kdam Bridge, also in Kandal.

Phnom Penh and Beijing have inked agreements to build two more bridges, the Cambodia-China Chroy Changvar Bridge in Phnom Penh and another project in Takhmao.

Hun Sen said several other highway projects have also been signed or are under negotiation, and that China has already funded the construction of more than 1,500 kilometres of roads in Cambodia.

Opposition Sam Rainsy Party officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Last month, during Hun Sen’s five-day visit to China, he and Chinese leaders signed 12 project agreements related to infrastructure and agriculture projects.

In November, during the visit of China’s top legislator Wu Bangguo, Beijing and Phnom Penh signed an additional 16 economic agreements, with China pledging to provide $1.6 billion by 2015 for infrastructure projects.


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