17 Nov 2009

PM sees http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifrevival in investment in Q2 Stimulus spending set to prime private sector

‘‘Government spending on its own is not sufficient for sustainable growth. The private sector is also needed,’’ Mr Abhisit told business leaders at a conference yesterday. NATTHITI AMPRIWAN

Private investment should start to rebound in the second quarter next year thanks to government stimulus programmes and the recovering global economy, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva says.

He said the Thai Khem Kaeng infrastructure programme would help lay the foundation for a return to sustainable growth and create up to 1.5 million jobs over the next three years.

The 1.45-trillion-baht programme will finance tens of thousands of projects nationwide, ranging from large mass-transit projects in Bangkok to small microprojects aimed at improving rural irrigation systems, health and education facilities.

Mr Abhisit said the private sector has already shown strong signs of recovery from the global crisis, at least as seen through tax revenues.

Economic growth in 2010 is projected to reach 3% to 3.5%, compared with a contraction of about 3% this year.

Mr Abhisit called on private businesses to co-operate with the government in supporting medium-term, sustainable growth.

"Government spending on its own is not sufficient for sustainable growth. The private sector is also needed to help support long-term growth," he told business leaders at a conference yesterday.

A panel of leading businessmen agreed that economic indicators point to a continued rebound through 2010.

Santi Vilassakdanont, the chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), said private investment should turn positive in 2010 as a number of industrial sectors are already close to full capacity.

On average, industrial capacity utilisation is running at about 65%, with sectors such as electronics, construction materials, autos, textiles and jewellery showing clear improvement from earlier this year.

"Once capacity utilisation rates reach 70%, expected to occur in the first or second quarter of 2010, manufacturers will have to start investing again to expand," Mr Santi said.

He said the October industrial confidence index is expected to exceed the 100 point level for the first time in four years, as orders have risen sharply with the global rebound.

Mr Santi acknowledged that key risks such as oil prices and domestic politics could undermine the recovery, as well as uncertainties about the global economy itself.

"We want to see politics stable. This will at least help minimise the negative impact on the economy if the global economy does not recover as we hope," he said.

The Thai Khem Kaeng programme is coming at an opportune moment, Mr Santi added, as Thailand needs to strengthen its competitiveness as the Asean region moves closer to an integrated single market over the next several years.

Thai companies need to prepare for 2015, when investment is scheduled to be liberalised within the region and some companies may look to relocate production to neighbouring countries to take advantage of lower labour and operating costs.

But the government must ensure infrastructure funds, estimated to total as much as 1.06 trillion baht for 2010 alone, are spent with the greatest efficiency and transparency, Mr Santi said.

Dusit Nontanakorn, the chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, agreed that the planned investments in logistics, renewable energy and water resources should help raise the country's competitiveness.

But political stability remains critical, he said.

"The political conflicts need to end. And the infrastructure investments need good execution and implementation to help the country prepare for liberalisation within Asean over the next five years. We need to be positioned to benefit from economic integration," Mr Dusit said.

The Chamber of Commerce is studying the current competitiveness of seven key sectors, including food and agriculture, health care, logistics and tourism, and would soon present the government with its recommendations, Mr Dusit said.

Cambodia allows diplomats to visit alleged spy

An old photo of Siwarak Chutiphong (right), the engineer arrested by Cambodian authorities on spying charges, and his mother.

Thai diplomats were allowed access to accused spy Siwarak Chutiphong (right) in Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison on Tuesday morning and he was allowed a phone call to his mother (left) - a move welcomed by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva who said the government now hopes for his early return home.

The Thai charge d'affaires in Phnom Penh and other embassy officials were allowed to visit Thai engineer Siwarak Chutiphong at Prey Sar prison this morning, the foreign minister's secretary Chavanond Intarakomalyasut confirmed on Tuesday.

It was the first time consular access had been allowed since Mr Siwarak was arrested on Thursday for supplying details of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's flight schedule to the Thai embassy.

On Monday, Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong claimed a Thai embassy official was allowed to visit Mr Siwarak in Prey Sar prison where he was temporarily detained. Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said this was not correct and that Phnom Penh had declined to allow a visit.

Mr Chavanond said charge d'affaires Chalotorn Phaovibul reported that Mr Siwarak was receiving proper treatment at the prison.

Mr Chalotorn was talking to Cambodian officials, trying to obtain details of the charges against Mr Siwarak so that defence lawyers could prepare a case.

He said Mr Siwarak was also allowed a five minute phone conversation with his mother Seemarak na Nakhon Phanom in Nakhon Ratchasima. He told her he was being well treated by Cambodian authorities and was in good health.

Mr Chavanond said he saw this as a good sign that could lead to talks to normalise relations between the two countries.

Mr Chalatorn, as charge d'affaires, is temporarily in charge of the Thai diplomatic mission in the absence of the ambassador, who was recalled two weeks ago.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva welcomed the Cambodian government's response, and said that the government has hopes that Mr Siwarak would be soon released.

"There is hope [for his release], but we have to first follow legal procedures. The precise charges against him are not yet known. I think this should be clear by tomorrow," he said. "This will allow us to follow legal procedure and assign a lawyer to help him."

Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga had ordered two high-level ministry officials to travel to Cambodia to visit Mr Siwarak, Department of Special Investigation director-general Tharit Pengdit said.

Deputy justice permanent secretary Pol Col Tawee Sodsong and Suwana Suwannajutha, director-general of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department, had been instructed to visit him as soon as possible to make sure he is accorded his rights.

The Rights and Liberties Protection Department had also been insructed to liaise with Mr Siwarak's family and the Foreign Ministry to arrange legal assistance.

Thai officials would not attempt to interfere in Cambodia's investigation process, Mr Tharit said.

Mrs Suwana said she would first visit Mr Siwarak's mother Seemarak in Nakhon Ratchasima to find out if she needs any help.

Thai police arrest 2 Thai traffickers of African ivory

Police have arrested two Thais for trafficking in African ivory, a crime that carries a maximum fouryear jail sentence, police said Tuesday.

Samat Chokechoima and Kanok Wongsarot were arrested on Monday in a sting operation in which Thai police posed as buyers of carved African ivory items, said Pol LtColonel Thanayos Gengkasrikit, spokesman of the Natural Resource and Environmental Crime Division.

The suspects face a maximum of four years in prison and fines of up to Bt40,000 under Thailand's Wild Animal Preservation and Protection Act and another fine up to Bt100,000 under the Customs Act for the import and export of illegal goods.

Described as "middlelevel operators", the arrest of Samat and Kanok was the result of a yearlong investigation involving Thai and US officials, along with the Freeland Foundation and the Asean Wildlife Enforcement Network (AseanWEN).

We are Family

Hun Sen and Thaksin Shinawatra

Maj Gen Khattiya Sawatdiphol admits Monday he had sneaked into Cambodia to meet ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra and Cambodian PM Hun Sen last week. Some criticised his
presence with Thaksin as he is still serving in the military.

11 Nov 2009

Revenue collections exceed target

Business » Economics

The government generated higher-than-expected revenue in October, Fiscal Police Office (FPO) director-general Sathit Limpongpan said on Wednesday.

Mr Sathit said the government's revenue collection in the first month of fiscal 2010 amounted to 111.052 billion baht, higher than target by more than 15 billion baht or 16.2 per cent.

The global economic recovery had bolstered imports and consumption in the country, while the oil excise tax hike since May had significantly increased collections of the Revenue, Customs and Excise Departments.

Increasing imports caused the value-added tax collection to exceed the initial projection by 23.2 per cent and the import duty by 21.1 per cent. Domestic consumption also improved, resulting in the car excise tax collection being higher than target by 58.2 per cent and the consumption-based VAT collection by 7.2 per cent.

However, state enterprises' total revenue collection was down to 1.456 billion baht, or 9.5 per cent lower than expected, because of the government's measures to reduce people's spending.

The FPO chief expressed confidence that the government's revenue collection for fiscal 2010 would be higher than projected.

The Public Debt Management Office reported the government’s outstanding public debt as of the end of September, 2009 stood at 4.001 trillion baht or 45.55 per cent of the gross domestic product.

Chakkrit Parapuntakul, deputy director at the office, said of the total, 2.586 trillion baht were the loans directly acquired by the government, 1.109 trillion baht were debts owed by the non-financial institutional state enterprises.

Another 208.7 billion baht were loans sought by the state enterprises which are financial institutions and guaranteed by the government, and the remaining 98.15 billion baht were loans acquired by the state-owned Financial Institutions Development Fund (FIDF).

The outstanding public debt dropped 16.24 billion baht from August as a result from a 22.85 billion baht decline in the government’s directly acquired loans and the 2.65, 2.84 and 1.13 billion baht increase in loans of the non-financial and financial institutional state enterprises and the FIDF respectively, Mr Chakkrit said.

The Office of Industrial Economics said this year's GDP would likely show a contraction of 3.5 per cent for this year.

Director-general Sutthinee Pupaka said the industrial sector was expected to shrink 5.9 per cent this year.

The recovering global economy and the government's economic stimulus measures had enabled the manufacturing production index (MPI) and the production rate to increase continuously, Mrs Suthinee said.

The MPI turned positive for the first time in 11 months after it rose one per cent in September.

She said there were also positive signals from the textile, automotive electronics industries, she said.

The risk factors were the consistency of global economic recovery, rising fuel prices and domestic political stability, she said.

Cooperation with Cambodia 'under review'

All cooperation with Cambodia is being revised following Phnom Penh's official refusal of request to extradite former premier Thaksin Shinawatra back to Thailand, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Wednesday.

The Foreign Ministry had been instructed to begin the rview.

We was sorry Cambodia had decided not abide by international agreements and law, but Thailand would still not use force against its neighbour.

The border would not be closed, but the government would adopt tougher measures to discourage Thais crossing the border to gamble in Cambodian casinos.

Mr Abhisit spoke shortly after receiving Cambodia's official refusal of Thailand's request to extradite Thaksin. The decision has inflamed tensions over Phnom Penh's appointment of the fugitive former Thai premier as an economic adviser.

Thai diplomats gave extradition papers to officials at Cambodia's foreign affairs ministry early Wednesday but were then handed a note from Phnom Penh denying their request.

"Our diplomatic note answering them is nothing beyond rejecting the extradition request," Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said shortly before the exchange of letters.

Cambodia had repeatedly vowed to refuse any request from its larger neighbour for the extradition of Thaksin, saying that the charges levelled against him in Thailand were politically motivated
"Thaksin's conviction is caused by the coup in September 2006, when he was the prime minister of Thailand whom Thai people voted in with an overwhelming majority in accordance with democracy,'' Hor Namhong said.

Pinich Wikitset, assistant to the foreign minister, confirmed that the Foreign Ministry had received a letter from Cambodia refusing extradition.

Mr Panich said the letter stressed that Cambodia cannot send Thaksin to Thailand because the former Thai prime minister was a political, not criminal, convict.

The government would hold a meeting to assess the development. At this stage, the Foreign Ministry would send a reply to Cambodia reaffirming that the court case in which Thaksin was sentenced to two years in jail was criminal, not political.

The verdict against Thaksin issued by the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions clearly states that Thaksin committed a criminal offence while holding the office of prime minister of Thailand, Mr Panich said.

Mr Panich said Thailand had not yet considered closing the border with Cambodia or taking other measures to pressure Cambodia.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban reaffirmed on Wednesday Thailand will not resort to closing its border with Cambodia.

He declined to comment on the Cambodian refusal, saying he would rather wait to see the official reply letter than engaging in a verbal spat through the media.

There were international diplomatic channels that could be followed in this matter, Mr Suthep said.

Mr Suthep, who is in charge of security affairs, said the Thai government would not resort "special" measures, such as sending forces into Cambodia to bring Thaksin back to Thailand, because each country has its own sovereignty to protect.

What Thailand could do now was to send an official letter explaining to Cambodia that Thaksin is a convicted criminal, not a political refugee, and that the two countries have an extradition treaty and should comply with it, he said.

Asked about Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's challenging Thailand to close the border, Mr Suthep said a politician's expression of emotion could not be taken seriously.

He said Mr Abhisit's policy is for security agencies to protect Thai sovereignty and make sure that the people along the border can lead happy, normal lives.

Tensions were already running high between the two countries following a series of clashes over a temple on their border and the row threatens to mar a weekend summit of Southeast Asian leaders with US President Barack Obama.

Thailand and Cambodia each recalled their ambassadors last week after Thaksin's appointment, and this week the Thai cabinet agreed to cancel a memorandum of understanding with Cambodia on disputed maritime boundaries, covering oil and gas exploration, signed by the Thaksin government in 2001.

Thaksin is due to give a speech to about 300 Cambodian economics experts on Thursday. Cambodian officials have said he will stay in the country for two or three days but is not intending to live there.

Cambodian state television late Tuesday showed Thaksin and Hun Sen embracing, reporting that the Cambodian leader pronounced him an "eternal friend".

King Father wants PM to look into VN border

KING Father Norodom Sihanouk has written letters urging Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior officials to examine opposition party allegations that Vietnamese authorities are encroaching on Cambodian soil.

The letters follow Cambodian and Vietnamese officials’ criticism of opposition leader Sam Rainsy for uprooting six markers along the countries’ loosely defined border in October.

Sihanouk’s letters urged officials to “consider” Sam Rainsy’s allegations. On Saturday, the opposition leader wrote a letter to the King Father, saying that villagers along the border in Svay Rieng province’s Chantrea district were losing valuable farmland to Vietnam.

Var Kimhong, the government’s senior minister in charge of border affairs, declined comment, noting only that Sam Rainsy’s letter mentions that villagers uprooted border posts – omitting his own involvement.

Thaksin touches down in Cambodia


Fugitive political figure’s presence is likely to further harm relations with Thailand, analysts say.

HAILAND’s deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra arrived in Phnom Penh Tuesday at the invitation of Cambodia’s government in a move that is likely to escalate a diplomatic row that has already seen the two countries recall their ambassadors and plunged relations to their lowest point in six years.

Thaksin, who last week was appointed economic adviser to the government and personal adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen – further inflaming Thai anger – is expected to deliver a lecture to Cambodian economics experts on Thursday.

The ex-premier, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, arrived at the military air base adjacent to Phnom Penh International Airport in a small, chartered jet, and was briefly greeted by several Cambodian officials on the tarmac before being whisked away in a motorcade under the protection of Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit.

Thaksin “stepped safely onto Cambodian soil. It was an honour for the people and the country of Cambodia”, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said.

Thaksin and Hun Sen shared a welcome dinner on Tuesday evening, Phay Siphan added. This followed a meeting between the two, shown in part on local news reports, that was also attended by Thaksin’s brother-in-law and fellow ex-prime minister, Somchai Wongsawat.

Phay Siphan was unsure of the duration of Thaksin’s stay, but said he would be here “at least” until Thursday.

Thaksin’s visit to Cambodia is the closest he has come to his country since going into a self-imposed exile to avoid imprisonment for a corruption conviction in absentia in 2008.

The Thai foreign ministry said that it was sending an extradition request for Thaksin to its embassy in Phnom Penh late Tuesday and expected to hand the documents to Cambodian officials today.

“Cambodia must realise that they have triggered a conflict of interest and criticised the Thai judicial system,” Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said.

Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong, however, confirmed Tuesday that the government will “absolutely not” extradite the man Hun Sen has called an “eternal friend”.

In an internet posting late Monday, Thaksin said his trip to Cambodia was not an act of provocation.

“As I travel to Cambodia to discuss poverty and the world economic situation, I will try to preserve Thai interests with our friends in Phnom Penh, despite the Thai government still hounding me wherever I go,” he wrote. “I will not go to Cambodia to help Cambodia fight with Thailand.”

Earlier this year, deadly skirmishes broke out on the two nations’ disputed border, and Thais have expressed anger about the listing of Preah Vihear temple as a Cambodian World Heritage site by UNESCO.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political analyst at Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University, said Sunday that if Thaksin travelled to Cambodia, Abhisit “will be forced to step up the escalation spiral”.

He added, however, that both sides must own up to their responsibility for the breakdown in relations.

“Hun Sen has overstepped the line here – diplomatically, legally, politically,” he said.

“At the same time, the Abhisit government has to own up to its past deeds. Appointing [Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya] has been a liability, and now you can see the consequences.… Allowing the right-wing radical groups from the [People’s Alliance for Democracy] to protest at the [Preah Vihear temple] site… has added fuel to the fire.”

Andrew Walker, a Southeast Asia expert at the Australian National University, said Hun Sen and the Cambodian government mean to deliver a “poke in the eye” to Abhisit, adding: “It’s hard not to interpret their actions with Thaksin as something of retaliation over the temple issue.”

Michael Montesano, a fellow at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said Abhisit’s response to Thaksin’s arrival will determine the tenor of future bilateral relations.

“How bad it gets depends entirely on whether Abhisit can keep his cool and resist pressure from those who are intent on escalation of this conflict,” Montesano said.

“But if he keeps making announcements of the kind he has made in the past few days, then things could get much, much worse.”

Cambodian officials at the Thai border said Tuesday that the situation was quiet, and that border crossings were proceeding as usual.


Prime Minister Hun Sen (left) and former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, pose together at a house prepared for Thaksin in Phnom Penh. THAKSIN FACES LESE MAJESTE COMPLAINT OVER INTERVIEW

FOUR Thai government officials lodged a complaint against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Tuesday, accusing him of lese majeste in connection with an interview he gave in The Times, a British newspaper. Thaksin said in a statement that the article had misrepresented his words and had a misleading headline. The ex-premier has instructed his attorney, Noppadon Pattama, to investigate legal action against The Times, said Suchart Lainamngern, deputy spokesman of the Thaksin-associated Puea Thai party. In the interview, Thaksin was quoted as calling for the reform of institutions around Thailand’s revered monarchy, headed by 81-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej. “Thailand needs to have a monarchy, but it should not be abused or played by the palace circles,” Thaksin reportedly said. “I can assure you His Majesty is above [politics], but those in the circle have a network.” Insulting or defaming the royal family is punishable by up to 15 years in jail in Thailand. Members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy said they would stage a mass anti-Thaksin protest in Bangkok on Sunday.


Cambodia's Garment Workers Hit by Recession

[insert caption here]

Cambodia is a country where not having a job can mean not eating, or perhaps just having one meal a day. (10 November 2009)

Over the last decade economic growth has helped lift Cambodia out of its poverty. The signs were everywhere; bustling construction sites around Phnom Penh ; young workers filing into factories, filling orders for eager clients abroad
More than 400,000 jobs in the textile industry fuelled the hopes of many young women whose earnings in the city helped support their extended families in the countryside.

Ny Sopheak: "I worked in the packing section of a textile factory. I earned sometimes $60 a month from the factory work and I sent $10 a month to my father."

But that factory, like dozens of others, has now closed. The global recession scared investors and shut down factories.

Twenty-three-year-old Ny Sopheak, like 50,000 other Cambodians, recently lost her job in the garment industry.

This in a country where not having a job can mean not eating, or perhaps just having one meal a day.

Ny Sopheak: "Since I don't have enough food I feel so weak and I often get sick."

Today Ny is sharing one egg and some rice with her roommate, Horn Devy who also lost her factory job. That's one egg between two people. Horn feels she can't go on much longer.

Horn Devy: "It's very difficult. It's a hard life, living in a small room like this."

Horn is only 15 years old. She was sent to work to help out her family, small time farmers and basket weavers who can't make ends meet.

Horn's mother says she worries about her, so young, and away from the family. Even so, she wanted Horn to earn money, so that her brothers can finish school.

But having lost her job, Horn has gone from providing for her family to becoming an extra burden. Asked how she feels about this, she says,

Horn Devy: "It's hard to say. I am starving. When you have no food it's very difficult to feel anything."

Her story is unusual because of her young age, but all over Cambodia's capital there are women who are falling into abject poverty as they lose their jobs in the textile factories.

Meanwhile, thousands of factory workers have turned to the streets to pressure the government to guarantee their jobs, their incomes, and their access to food.

And while Cambodia has been hard-hit, other countries are worried too. Guaranteeing the availability of food for everyone is now an urgent issue for governments across Asia-Pacific.

Many governments are now looking at how to invest in agriculture, to stem tide of migration towards the cities, and to help make food more affordable.

But textile factories too, are needed. If they keep closing, experts worry that much of the progress achieved in places like Cambodia, in education, in economic development, and in human rights, could be at risk; and with it the future of the entire generation.

Cambodia refuses Bangkok's request to extradite Thaksin

Cambodian officials have formally refused to extradite fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra (pictured) to Thailand. Cambodia's appointment of Thaksin as economic adviser to the government has stoked tension between the two countries

Cambodian officials handed over a formal letter to Thai diplomats Wednesday refusing to extradite fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, an AFP reporter saw.

Three Thai diplomats gave extradition papers to officials at Cambodia's foreign affairs ministry early Wednesday but were then handed back a note from Phnom Penh denying their request.

"Our diplomatic note answering them is nothing beyond rejecting the extradition request," Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told AFP shortly before officials from the two countries exchanged the formal letters.

Thaksin, who was toppled three years ago in a coup and is living abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption, arrived in Cambodia on Tuesday to take up his new job as economic advisor to the government and was welcomed by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Cambodia had vowed to refuse any request from its larger neighbour for the extradition of the billionaire tycoon, saying that the charges levelled against Thaksin in Thailand were politically motivated.

"Thaksin's conviction is caused by the coup in September 2006, when he was the prime minister of Thailand whom Thai people voted in with an overwhelming majority in accordance with democracy," Hor Namhong said.

Tensions are already running high between the two countries following a series of clashes over a temple on their border and the row threatens to mar a weekend summit of Southeast Asian leaders with US President Barack Obama.

The two countries withdrew their respective ambassadors last week.

In Bangkok, Thailand's foreign ministry said it was waiting for official confirmation from the embassy in Phnom Penh that Cambodia had denied its request.

"If it is true, we will consider the next measures to take," the ministry's deputy spokesman Thani Thongpakdi told AFP.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said the country may terminate its extradition treaty with Cambodia if Phnom Penh refuses to send Thaksin home to face justice.

5 Nov 2009

Hun Sen in Tokyo To Discuss Mekong Development

Prime Minister Hun Sen left for Tokyo on Thursday, for discussions with one of the nation’s top donors about development within the region.

Japan is hosting a two-day summit between Mekong countries, starting Friday, to discuss development of infrastructure, human resources and others, officials said.

Sri Thamrong, an adviser to Hun Sen, said the summit will also focus on “natural disasters, disaster management, climate change, environmental protection and the prevention of infectious diseases, “as well as development and stability in the region.”

The Japan-Mekong Region Partnership Program seek to expand Japan’s assistance to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, as well as the region overall, over the next three years, totaling $40 million.

Mekong countries include Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

Before departing, Hun Sen told a group of editors from Japan’s Kyodo news service that Tokyo had played a key role in peace development in Cambodia and economic development in the region.

Overall, Japan has contributed more than $1.7 billion in aid to Cambodia.

Army keeps military attache in Phnom Penh

Relations with Cambodia have sunk to new lows but Thailand is keeping its military attache in Phnom Penh.

The army hopes the military attache will be a key channel for dealing with Cambodia and helping take care of Thais living or visiting there.

"The military attache will be ordered to return home only when ties are in crisis," an army source said yesterday.

Although diplomatic relations between the two countries are strained and there is a continuing border dispute, ties between the two armies remain close.

But the Supreme Command has dusted off the Pochentong plan in case the situation worsens.

The emergency plan was implemented in 2003 when the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh was torched. Three C-130 aircraft were deployed to evacuate Thais from the Cambodian capital.

Cambodian soldiers are presently engaged in a military exercise about 10km from the Preah Vihear temple.

A Thai army source estimated 2,000 troops were taking part in war games simulating a border conflict.

The terrain where the military exercise is being held was similar to the area around the 11th century temple, the source said.

Cambodia has 3,000 soldiers at the temple and in the nearby disputed area.

The war games started mid-last month and would end on Nov 15, the source said.

Meanwhile, at Rong Kluea market near Ban Khlong Luk border checkpoint in Sa Kaeo's Aranyaprathet district, Cambodian traders closed their stores early yesterday after reports Thailand had recalled its ambassador to Phnom Penh.

Thai gamblers visiting casinos in Poi Pet also rushed back to Thai soil for fear of anti-Thai riots like those that erupted in 2003.

Sa Kaeo governor Sanit Naksuksri ordered the chiefs of all border districts to monitor the situation.

Col Wasu Chiamsuk of the Burapha task force told all border rangers in Sa Kaeo to be on standby.

In Chanthaburi province, there were rumours a border checkpoint might be closed, prompting Thai and Cambodian traders along the border to delay their transactions.

Isiwut Tangkiat, chairman of the Association of Chanthaburi's Thai-Cambodian Trade and Tourism, said Cambodian business operators had delayed and cancelled product orders.

The value of products that could not be delivered to customers in Cambodia yesterday amounted to about 100 million baht, Mr Isiwut said.

In Trat's Khlong Yai district, Thais and Cambodians visiting the Ban Had Lek border market continued with their normal routines as neither side had ordered the closure of Ban Had Lek border checkpoint.

Thailand recalls ambassador to protest Cambodia

Thailand on Thursday recalled its ambassador to Phnom Penh in protest at Cambodia's appointment of convicted ex-Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra as economic adviser to Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government.
The Thai government will demand reviews of bilateral agreements and commitments signed between Thailand and Cambodia by both present and past governments, according to the statement issued on Thursday.

Thai Ambassador to Phnom Penh Prasas Prasavinitchai is scheduled to arrive in Bangkok at 3pm.

The Cambodian government appointed fugitive Thaksin as economic adviser to Hun Sen and the Cambodian government in an order signed by Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni on Wednesday.

Hun Sen announced upon his arrival in Thailand in October to attend the Asean Summit that he had offered Thaksin, who he regards as a friend, a residence and a job as his economic adviser.

The Thai Foreign Ministry's decision to recall the ambassador is the strongest protest made in years.

The statement also mentioned that the ongoing cooperation between the two countries would be put on hold for the time being.

Foreign Minister's secretary Chavanont Intarakomalsut said the appointment of Thaksin as Hun Sen's adviser was considered as intervening in the Thai justice system.

"The appointment of Thaksin as the adviser to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is regarded as an intervention in Thailand's internal affairs and an insult to the Thai justice system," he said in a press conference.

The appointment clearly showed that the Khmer premier failed to distinguish between his personal interests and the mutual interests of the two countries, he said.


Thailand needs to make diplomatic retaliation against Cambodia: Abhisit

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Thursday that Thailand needed to make diplomatic retaliation against Cambodia's interference of Thailand's internal affairs.

"The Foreign Ministry has to take action so that Cambodia will learn about the feelings of Thai people," Abhisit said.

"Since Cambodia mentioned our internal affairs, we had to retaliate in line with the diplomatic protocol."

He was speaking to reporters after the Foreign Ministry announce the recalling of its ambassador to Phnom Penh after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra his economic advisor.

The Nation

National Budget Risks High Deficits: World Bank

Cambodia’s recently drafted 2010 budget could put pressure on the economy by running high deficits that exceed external financing, the World Bank said Wednesday.

The Council of Ministers this week green-lighted a $2 billion budget for next year, increasing money allotted for health services and decreasing that for security, in an overall increase of more than $100 million.

The government “is facing difficult choices in drafting the 2010 budget,” the World Bank said in a regional update. “Sustaining high deficits that exceed available external financing would put pressure on macroeconomic stability.”

“The government is trying to bring the fiscal deficit to a level that supports growth—which remains below potential—without compromising macroeconomic stability,” the World Bank said.

Cheam Yeap, a ruling party lawmaker and head of the National Assembly’s finance committee, said the budget suffered from the world economic crisis.

Next year’s budget “cannot avoid difficulty,” he said. “However, the government is prepared to strengthen its macroeconomics with clarity, fairness and goodness.”

Kem Sokha, president of the opposition Human Rights Party, said the government should avoid high deficits, which would require loans from foreign countries and increased taxes.

“The government can increase its expenditure,” he said. “But the government must prevent corruption and collect taxes to avoid the loss of income.”

In the proposed 2010 budget, which must be approved by the National Assembly, expenditure decreased in the ministries of Defense, Education and Interior, but slightly increased for the Ministry of Health.

Cambodia wants to see an annual economic growth rate of 7 percent, while reducing poverty by 1 percent, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said.

The economy fell from a nearly 7 percent growth rate in 2008 to a 2 percent contraction so far in 2009, but the Bank said signs of recovery could see a 4 percent growth next year.

Thaksin Shinawatra

Thaksin Shinawatra appointed economics adviser to Cambodia

Thailand's ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has thanked Cambodia for appointing him as an economics adviser, even though the move is likely to further damage relations between to the two countries.

The decision by the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to appoint Mr Thaksin — still a deeply divisive figure in Thailand — follows a border dispute that has led to small but deadly military skirmishes over the past 18 months.

Responding to a congratulatory message from a supporter posted on his Twitter page, Mr Thaksin thanked Mr Hun Sen for the appointment.

“I thank Mr Hun Sen for giving me such an honour,” Mr Thaksin tweeted in Thai from Dubai, where he has spent much of his time since being ousted in a 2006 coup. “But I would have more enjoyment if I could work to eradicate Thai people's poverty.”

In Thailand, Suthep Thaugsuban, the Deputy Prime Minister, played down the move and said it would not affect bilateral relations between the Southeast Asian neighbours.

“It's a domestic affair for Cambodia to appoint anyone. We cannot interfere,” Mr Suthep said. “If we like or dislike the person they appoint, we can't bluster about it.”

Mr Thaksin has been living mostly in self-imposed exile since he was overthrown after six years as prime minister. He was accused of corruption and abuse of power and insulting the country's constitutional monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Mr Thaksin was convicted in absentia last year of violating a conflict of interest law and sentenced to two years in prison. Thai officials claim he is trying to undermine the Government to regain power.

Mr Hun Sen called a stir at a meeting of Asian leaders in Thailand last month by declaring that Mr Thaksin was welcome to take refuge in Cambodia. He said that Mr Thaksin was a friend and had been prosecuted unfairly for political reasons.

Thailand responded by saying it would seek to extradite Mr Thaksin if he went to Cambodia. Cambodia in turn said it would reject any such request.

Mr Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon, had substantial business interests in Cambodia and was accused of pursuing special deals there for his family-controlled conglomerate while prime minister.

He has travelled since the coup to Dubai, Hong Kong, Nicaragua, Liberia and Montenegro in pursuit of investment opportunities.

Mr Thaksin remains widely popular among Thailand's rural people and the urban poor, who benefited from his social welfare policies. He is still highly influential, rallying protesters in telephoned speeches from aboard.

Thaksin Appointed ‘Adviser’ to Hun Sen

Ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra has been appointed as an economic adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, a move that is likely to rankle Bangkok, officials said Wednesday. (04 November 2009)

Ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra has been appointed as an economic adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, a move that is likely to rankle Bangkok, officials said Wednesday.

Thaksin lives in exile and faces a two-year jail term for corruption if he returns to Thailand, but Hun Sen has said he would welcome him in Cambodia despite an extradition treaty with Bangkok.

King Norodom Sihamoni had approved Thaksin as an “adviser” to Hun Sen, said Phay Siphan a spokesman for the Council of Ministers.

As a developing country, Cambodia needs knowledgeable advisers, and Thaksin knows many overseas investors, which could help, Phay Siphan said.

Thai officials have said they will begin an extradition process if Thaksin is found in Cambodia, and Thaksin himself has declined Hun Sen’s overtures that he stay in the country.

Still, the question of Thaksin’s legitimacy as a leader has riled Thai politics for more than three years and led to the unseating of several administrations, including his own; he was pushed out of power in a bloodless coup in 2006.

3 Nov 2009

Rice prices unlikely to return to record next year, Wailes says

Rice prices are unlikely to return to records next year as supplies from Thailand and Vietnam, the world’s biggest exporters, may be enough to cover Indian and Philippine shortfalls, an agricultural professor said.

“Globally, the market fundamentals are still relatively sound,” said Eric Wailes, a agricultural economics professor at the University of Arkansas. “I would be surprised if we hit the kind of prices that we had in the spring of 2008,” he said.

Rice stockpiles in Thailand were forecast by the US Department of Agriculture in October at 3.5 million metric tons for the 2009-2010 marketing year, up from 2.5 million tons in 2006-2007, before prices surged. Inventory in Vietnam will be 1.7 million tons, from 1.4 million tons in 2007, the USDA said.

“That didn’t exist going into the spring of 2008” when prices reached a record, said Wailes, who co-wrote a 1998 study that predicted global rice demand would exceed production in 2009-2010, which the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the USDA forecast this year.

Food price protests swept the globe last year after fears of shortages prompted producers including India to cut rice exports and importers increased purchases. Futures traded in Chicago surged to a record $25.08 per 100 pounds in April 2008.

Vietnam aims to sell $1 bln bond by early 2010: source

Vietnam hopes to raise $1 billion by early next year in its long-awaited second international bond issue that will cap the coupon at 7 percent, a finance ministry official said on Tuesday.

The ministry wanted to sell 10-year dollar bonds before the end of the year but there might not be enough time to do so.

"Most of the money, about $700 million, would supplement the government's budget and the rest would be loaned to state-owned companies," said the official, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to talk on the record to the media.

The government had already approved the bond sale and has chosen Barclays Capital, Citigroup and Deutsche Bank to advise on the issue.

Vietnam's only foray into the international capital market was in 2005 when it sold $750 million worth of sovereign bonds maturing in 2016.

Those bonds were trading with yields of 6.3-6.4 percent, compared with the original coupon of 6.75 percent, a bond trader said.

Two years ago the government approved another issue worth $1 billion but the sale has been delayed several times.

With the economy under pressure from the global slump, and the government extending parts of an economic stimulus package, many economists forecast the fiscal budget deficit will expand to 10 percent of GDP or larger, more than double last year's.

Questions have persisted for months about how the government would fund the deficit. Domestic dong-denominated government bond auctions have struggled this year, with the finance ministry's yield ceiling too low for the market.

Vietnam is also trying hard to boost its foreign exchange reserves and said last month it would borrow $1 billion from the World Bank this year and next, and also $1 billion annually from Japan from 2010 to 2012.

PTTEP: Oil rig fire now out

A fire rages on the West Atlas drilling rig and the Montara wellhead platform 250km off the Australian northwest coast before it is distinguished Monday. (AFP Photo)

The fire at a leaking PTTEP oil rig in the sea off north Australia is finally extinguished on Tuesday, and now the clean up begins

The fire that destroyed a leaking oil drilling platform that has been spewing crude oil into the Timor Sea, north of Australia, for months has finally been extinguished, PTTEP chief executive officer Anon Sirisaengtaksin said on Tuesday.

He said the blaze at the Montara well started on Nov 1.

"We finally managed to extinguish it about about 1pm Bangkok time. We are keeping everything under watch to make sure it is 100 per cent under control," Mr Anon said.

PTT Exploration and Production Plc (PTTEP) will next week send staff to examine the extent of the damage to the West Atlas platform.

He said the company will review the oil production plan at the Montara well after experts finish with their damage assessment.

Mr Anon said PTTEP has an insurance policy to cover damage of up to about US$270 million.

Energy Minister Wannarat Channukul said the damage to the oil rig was initially estimated at two billion baht.

The incident would not affect deliveries of fuel and natural gas to Thailand, he said.

The minister said the fire was caused by a technical problem, which had now been solved.

PTTEP had evacuated all staff from the rig and would take steps to get rid of the oil slick under standards fixed by the Australian government, Mr Wannarat said.

The leaking rig has been spewing up to 400 barrels of crude oil into the pristine Timor Sea each day since Aug 21, sparking an environmental uproar in Australia.

No staff had worked on the West Atlas since it began leaking

Chavalit causes a stir


Two muslim girls raise a national flag at their school in the restive South on May 18, 2009. (AFP Photo)

Peua Thai's Gen Chavalit is in the far South to promote his proposal for some form of autonomy for a 'Pattani City' - sparking instant political controversy, harsh accusations and denials.

Puea Thai Party chairman and former prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh on Tuesday travelled to the deep South on Tuesday, saying he would attempt to restore peace in the violence-plagued region - a visit that sparked immediate controversy.

Gen Chavalit said he would meet community leaders in the three southern border provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala and four districts in Songkhla province where martial law is enforced.

He planned to discuss how best to end the southern insurgency with representatives of civil society groups.

He said he would explain his proposal for an autonomous Pattani City, and ask for their input.

Gen Chavalit denied his proposal for a form of autonomy for the lower South was ''traitorous'', as Democrat Party spokesman Thepthai Senpong claimed.

"I understand Mr Thepthai's concern but I would like to assure him that my intentions in addressing southern issues are good," he said. "The government is not on the right track at the moment."

He said the Pattani City proposal was only an idea and he would listen to the people's views on it.

Gen Chavalit earlier invited 2006 coup leader Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, former Pattani senator Den Tomeena, Matubhumi Party MP Areepen Udonsin, Puea Pandin Party MP for Narathiwat province Jeaming Tohtayong and Democrat MP for Narathiwat Waemahadee Waedaoh to join him on his southern trip.

Gen Sonthi, a former national army chief, and Mr Areepen both declined the invitation.

Gen Sonthi said later that he had made prior commitments.

He did not agree with giving the lowewr South a form of self-rule. That was not what people in the far South wanted, he said.

"At least 90 per cent of the local leaders, along with the provincial governors and district chiefs, are Muslims, and the current type of administration is already ideal for the region," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said Thailand is a single state and therefore cannot be divided.

Gen Chavalit was simply taking the political offensive by promoting the idea, he said, and called on the former prime minister to refrain from causing public confusion or otherwise damaging the country.

Yala Mayor Pongsak Yingchoncharoen also opposed the idea, saying that it was unlikely to end the continuing violence in the region.

The decentralisation of power by the government was already greater than in many other countries in Asia, Mr Pongsak said, adding that each area in the country already has its own self-governing administration.

"The important issue, rather than setting up Pattani City, is to encourage the public to have more say in selecting good leaders to govern their areas," Mr Pongsak said. "Establishing Pattani City would not guarantee that the southern violence would end since the insurgents have not said they will stop creating unrest once they have an autonomous region."

Democrat MP for Narathiwat Jeh-arming Tohtayong said Gen Chavalit's proposal would lead to further social division in the lower South.

“The establishment of Pattani City would be the starting point for a big mistake. The problem of southern unrest stems from injustices inflicted when Gen Chavalit was the prime minister [in 1997],” Mr Jeh-arming said.

Deputy Interior Minister Thaworn Senneam said the idea was just a political ploy to get Gen Chavalit's name in the news.

“It is not possible and it would not lead to an end of the violence in the three southernmost provinces as claimed,” Mr Thaworn said. He called Gen Chavalit’s highly touted trip to the far South "a show, a desperate bid to grab media attention by an old man who had failed in politics."

However, former Pattani senator Den Tohmeena supported the idea said it could bring a real change to Pattani.

"This would show local people that there is a sincere desire to give them a bigger role in running their own affairs,” Mr Den said.

If the proposal was implemented and proved a success then it could be expanded to Yala and Narathiwat provinces, he said.

An adviser to the Young Muslim Association of Thailand, Abdullorsish Tadein, supported the idea of a semi-autonomous zone in the lower South, as it is in line with demands of local organisations and civil sector groups.

“It could be called a special administrative zone because calling it Pattani City could meet strong opposition,” Mr Abdullorsish said, adding that the governor of the zone should also be elected, as in Bangkok and Pattaya.

He said unrest resurfaced in the far South in 2004 and the situation had not improved in the five years since so the government must show the courage needed to change the situation.

Gen Chavalit's idea was just to decentralize state power to local communities in deep South, as the people there had never had real governing authority, he said.

Puea Thai spokesman Prompong Noppariot complained that the government was twisting and misrepresenting the proposal for a self-governing Pattani City.

Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyuth did not propose the southernmost border provinces to be made an independent or autonomous state called Pattani City, as claimed by people in the government.

The Puea Thai chairman meant only the setting up of a special administrative area, similar to Pattaya City, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and Chiang Mai City.

As a former senior military officer and former prime minister, it was unthinkable that Gen Chavalit would support an idea that would divide the country, he said.

In the morning, a paramilitary ranger with a special unit providing security for teachers was seriously wounded by a roadside bomb in Pattani, police said.

The bomb was wrapped in a Thai national flag and placed on the side of a village road in tambon Sai Thong of Pattani’s Mai Kaen district and exploded when Corp Prakasit Napongthong stopped to examine the package. He was rushed to a local hospital.

Cambodia Mulls Resource Transparency Initiative

Oil dream.

VOA Khmer recently spoke with specialists in the field of natural resource management in developing countries and learned that Cambodia is not alone in struggling to use natural resources to benefit its citizens. The resource curse, where natural riches fail to help the poor, is a worldwide scourge, the global experts told VOA Khmer in numerous interviews. Below is Part Nine of the original VOA Khmer weekly series, airing Sundays in Cambodia.

Cambodia is considering application to the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, despite heavy criticism of its handling of natural resources so far, an official says.

Cambodian People’s Party Lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the initiative could help provide expertise in the field, “with adequate experiences in managing oil and gas.”

The Oslo-based Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative is a non-profit organization that helps country’s manage their natural resources.. In 2002, Britain’s then-premier Tony Blair announced the concept of the initiative at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The initiative focuses on transparency and accountability in managing oil and gas and requires companies to publish payments to host governments. So far, 30 countries, including five in Asia, have implemented the program.

“If the government officials and parliamentarians are interested in applying for EITI, we welcome that,” Sam Bartlett, Asia director for the group, told VOA Khmer. “We are ready to support those stakeholders in any way so that they can adapt the EITI to the challenges in Cambodia.”

Bartlett noted, however, that Global Witness, which has issued two reports critical of the government that are banned in the country, is a member of the transparency initiative’s board.

Cheam Yeap said, were Cambodia to decide on the initiative, it were defer decisions to the board.

“If Global Witness is still angry, or wants revenge on the Cambodian government, or Cambodia, it’s not a surprise, because we’ve had some sorts of conflict in the past,” he said. “If Global Witness is on the board and is still angry with Cambodia, let the EITI board of directors decide.”

Global Witness has been campaigning against illegal logging in Cambodia since 1995. Over the last three years, Global Witness has issued two reports, “Cambodia’s Family Trees” and “Country for Sale,” severely criticizing the government for mismanaging natural resources, claiming Cambodia’s elites are able to diversify their commercial interests to reap all forms of the country’s assets. (The government denies these reports.)

Eleanor Nichol, a Global Witness campaigner, told VOA Khmer in an interview in Washington that the group’s goal was not to publish anti-government material, but the truth inevitably affected a few officials.

“It’s not anti-government information,” Nichol said. “But what happens is, actually, that it tends to point back to members of the Cambodian government, because they tend to be using their positions of power to exploit their country’s natural resources. So, inevitably over the period of time, it has brought us into a conflictual relationship with the Cambodian government.”

Cambodia needs to consider not only EITI, but also overall governance of natural resources, she said.

“They also need to look at the way in which concessions have been allocated and who the concessions have been allocated to in order to ensure that the best deal has been obtained for Cambodia and its citizens,” she said.

Mam Sambath, chairman of the newly established Cambodians for Resource Revenue Transparency, supported transparency attempts, saying the initiative would provide information to the public, informing the decision-making process.

The transparency initiative also comes with financial support to build government and civic capacity, perform outreach work to companies, and coordinate work through different organizations and agencies, Bartlett said.

Both Indonesia and East Timor have committed to the initiative, while the Philippines and Vietnam are both considering how it could fit into their regulations.

Thais Protest Over Soldiers on Border

Thai protestors rally in front of Cambodia's embassy in Bangkok.

02 November 2009

Nearly 500 Thai protesters gathered in front of the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok Monday to protest the presence of Cambodian troops near Preah Vihear temple. Soldiers from both countries have been entrenched along the border since July 2008.

The protest follows remarks from ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra that he would not accept exile status from Cambodia. Prime Minister Hun Sen angered Bangkok last week by announcing he would welcome Thaksin in Cambodia without abiding by an extradition treaty.

The protesters demanded that Cambodian troops leave the area around Preah Vihear temple, which they claim belongs to Thailand.

Koy Kong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called the demand “illegal.”

“Cambodia cannot accept the demand by Thai protestors,” he said.

Meanwhile, officials said Monday that Thaksin’s statements were likely to cool the ongoing war of words between leaders of the two countries.

“Thaksin showed his support for the Bangkok government,” by declining Hun Sen’s exile invitation, said Kem Sokha, head of the opposition Human Rights Party.

“If Thaksin makes asylum in Cambodia, it degrades the Thai government,” he said. “So, Thaksin does not want to degrade the Bangkok government in the name of the nation. Thaksin thinks of the national interest more than his personal interest.”

Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, said Thakisn’s declining to come to Cambodia would “avoid an uncomfortable feeling between the ruling parties of Cambodia and Thailand.”

However, Ny Chakrya, chief investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said Thaksin may also want to keep his political options open. Were he to seek political asylum in Cambodia, he would not be allowed to participate in politics in Thailand. “So he decided not to go to Cambodia.”

Thaksin lives in exile and faces a two-year jail term on charges of corruption if he returns to Thailand.

31 Oct 2009

Court allows police to detain Rakesh Saxena 12 days as requested

BANGKOK, Oct 31 (TNA) -- The court Saturday allowed Thailand’s police to further detain fugitive Indian-born ex-financier Rakesh Saxena for 12 days for further questioning regarding his alleged embezzlement which led to the closure of Bangkok Bank of Commerce (BBC) in 1995, two years before the Asian financial crisis hit Thailand and spread to many other countries in the world.

Guarded under heavy security by more than 30 police commandos, Mr Saxena was escorted from the Crime Suppression Division where he was detained since arriving in Bangkok late Friday following his extradition from Canada, to the Bangkok Southern Criminal Court as police sought court approval for his first remand.

The Court later remanded him in custody for 12 days while bail was rejected as there are more than 10 pending cases against him.

Mr Saxena was allowed to be sent for treatment at the jail hospital as requested by his lawyer.

Spokesman Pol Lt-Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen told journalists that police would question seven witnesses who had travelled to Canada and brought Mr Saxena to Thailand and said that he believed police could conclude their charges and forward them to the prosecutor on Monday.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Friday that legal action would be taken against politicians allegedly implicated in the embezzlement case.

In 1995, Mr Saxena, then treasury adviser of the BBC, allegedly colluded with Krirkkiat Jalichandra, then bank president, and was involved in setting up dummy loans and fabricating accounts to siphon millions from the bank, causing its collapse under US$3 billion in debts, along with nearly 60 financial institutions, leading directly to the 1997 financial crisis.

Mr Krirkkiat was arrested, tried and sentenced to 30 years in prison plus a fine of Bt330 million. (TNA)

PM vows to speed up development projects in deep south

SONGKHLA, Oct 31 (TNA) - Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told the private sector in Thailand’s five southernmost provinces that the government will speed up various projects to develop the southern region.

Mr Abhist met business community representatives in the five southern provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Songkhla, Satun and Yala at a hotel in Hat Yai, Songkhla for first hand information from the private sector.

The business representatives called on the government to extend the terms of soft loans to help manufacturers affected by the violence in the south and the global financial crisis.

They also asked government to support development of logistics, the land-bridge linking between the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, dual railway track development and the further development of the region’s tourism industry.

He promised to forward the 16 points proposal raised by the private sector in the southern provinces to the agencies concerned and the cabinet to speed up implementation.

Mr Abhisit also said that the government is improving operations of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC) and seeking more business community members.

Thailand and Malaysia are cooperating on a plan to jointly develop adjacent areas in southern Thailand and northern Malaysia, he said.

As for installing more CCTV for security, a project which has been delayed, the premier said the government is pressing to finish it soon.

The prime minister is trying to assure the business community in the south that the government had a development plan for the southern provinces and will speed up the projects to benefit the people in the region.

The emergency decree imposed in the four districts of Songkhla will be relaxed to improve the business atmosphere, a policy that will gradually extend to the three southernmost provinces, he said. (TNA)

Final Death Toll of Ketsana Raised to 35

Cambodian officials now estimate that Typhoon Ketsana claimed 35 lives and cost the country $41 million, leaving thousands of people homeless.

Hardest hit was Kampong Thom province, but 11 provinces in all suffered from the storm, which raged across the east and north of the country on Sept. 28.

Hundreds of homes were destroyed, and many people are now facing food shortages, the National Committee for Disaster Management said Friday.

The agency “will submit a compiled report of damage to the government to request assistance from the international community,” Nhem Vanda, first deputy president of the disaster committee, said.

The World Bank and the Japanese government have signaled a willingness to provide aid for victims of the storm, but they need a clear damage report from the government to proceed.

In Kampong Thom, the storm destroyed nearly 20,000 hectares of rice crop, as well as infrastructure, for a total of $17 million in damages, according to a preliminary estimate.

“I have worries for the destruction and damage of more infrastructure,” Som Sophath, deputy governor of the province, said. There, the storm killed 20 people, injured 14, and destroyed 109 houses, he said.

The German government will provide $280,000 in emergency assistance, Josef Fullen Bach, a government representative for Southeast Asian policy, told Finance Minister Keat Chhon on Friday.

The aid agency Oxfam last week estimated 20,000 people were in need of immediate emergency assistance.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam On, in a weekly government meeting Friday, encouraged government officials to travel to affected areas and help victims.

‘Peace’ a Legacy of Sihanouk: Officia

King Father Norodom Sihanouk.

As prince, head of state and king, Norodom Sihanouk accomplished many things, but as the former monarch prepares for his 87th birthday, he should be remembered as bringing peace to Cambodia, a former director of the Royal Cabinet said Thursday.

Sihanouk, who abdicated the throne in 2004 and has been struggling against cancer, was born Oct. 31, 1922, oversaw independence in 1953, was exiled by a US-backed coup in 1970, held under house arrest by the Khmer Rouge, and finally returned as king.

His main legacy was peace, said Truong Mealy, the former cabinet head, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

“With such peace, we can now talk,” he said.

Sihanouk is also remembered for his efforts to bring Preah Vihear temple under Cambodian control, through legal pursuits at the International Court in 1962, one caller to the show recalled.

Opposition Lawmaker To Return from US


Mr. HO Vann

Opposition lawmaker Ho Vann, who was recently cleared in a defamation case in Cambodia, prepared to return to Phnom Penh Thursday after spending four months meeting supporters and officials in the US.

Ho Vann had faced a lawsuit by 22 military officials when he questioned certificates awarded by a Vietnamese military academy. He was stripped of his parliamentary immunity by the National Assembly, where he represents the Sam Rainsy Party, in April.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court dropped the charges against him in September, in a surprise decision, while it upheld disinformation charges against the editor of the English-language Cambodia Daily for reporting the allegedly defaming comments.

“I hope that after receiving the verdict I can return to Cambodia safely, and I also appeal to [National Asssembly President] Heng Samrin to give me back the immunity,” Ho Vann told VOA Khmer on his way to the airport in Massachusetts.

Cheam Yiep, a Cambodian People’s Party National Assembly member, said he had not seen a proposal from the Ministry of Justice regarding Ho Vann, but added the courts were going through the process to restore his immunity

29 Oct 2009

Thais To Explain Thaksin Charges to Hun Sen


29 October 2009

The Thai government said this week it will send an official document to Prime Minister Hun Sen regarding ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra. (29 October 2009)

The Thai government said this week it will send an official document to Prime Minister Hun Sen regarding ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, following a war of words between Phnom Penh and Bangkok over Cambodia’s right to refuse extradition.

Thaksin, who lives in exile, but not in Cambodia, faces a prison term on corruption charges if he returns to Thailand.

Hun Sen angered the current Thai government earlier this month by hosting a Thaksin supporter of the opposition party, then declaring Thaksin welcome in Cambodia, despite an extradition treaty with Thailand.

Thailand’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said Tuesday it will outline the facts of Thaksin’s case for Hun Sen, who it said may have obtained incorrect information.

“We will receive the documents relating to Thaksin to read if the Bangkok government sends the documents to us,” government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said. “It is no problem. We will have our legal experts examine the documents.”

Thaksin was ousted from power in a bloodless coup in 2006, but he still enjoys wide support among Thais, and Hun Sen has called Thaksin a political victim and thereby outside extradition requirements.

Koy Kong, a spokesman for Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the ministry had not yet received documentation from Bangkok, but relations otherwise continued as normal.

28 Oct 2009

Thaksin is Cambodia-bound

As protesters gathered at the Cambodian embassy on Tuesday, the fugitive ex-premier said he wants to pay respects to Cambodian Premier Hun Sen for offering to lay out the welcome mat for him.

Ex-PM wants to thank Hun Sen for job offer

Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra insists he will go to Cambodia to thank Prime Minister Hun Sen for laying out the welcome mat for him.

Thaksin said he would fly to Cambodia soon to thank Hun Sen, a party source said.

Thaksin said he and Hun Sen had been friends for a long time.

Thaksin also thanked Puea Thai's new chairman, Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, for "doing the right thing".

He denied having any businesses in Cambodia, saying he had sold them all before entering politics, the source said.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban yesterday claimed he had cleared up Hun Sen's misunderstanding of Thaksin's situation.

Mr Suthep, who is in charge of national security, said he told Hun Sen Thaksin had not been bullied. He had broken the law and the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions had jailed him for two years after a proper judicial hearing.

He explained Thaksin was not living in exile because of the 2006 coup.

Mr Suthep said Thaksin was fielding members of the political party he controls in elections and they had won. But two party prime ministers had to step down because they had violated the law.

"It's too late to say he has been unfairly treated. If he accepted the constitution and had not fielded candidates in the general election, it would be another story," Mr Suthep said.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen understands this point well."

The Cambodian prime minister was told that if he allowed Thaksin to live in exile in Cambodia, Thailand would use international law to seek his extradition.

"I said it was fine because the law will not be interpreted by me and Mr Hun Sen alone. There is an extradition process, and the court might be the one ruling on the extradition," he said.

The Cambodian premier said on his arrival at the Asean summit in Thailand last weekend that his government would allow Thaksin to take refuge in Cambodia and work as his economic adviser. Cambodia would not extradite him if asked by Thailand as Thaksin had been unfairly treated, he said.

The Foreign Ministry is preparing to issue a statement explaining the facts relating to Thaksin's status in response to the remarks by Hun Sen. The statement will be sent to the Cambodian government as the ministry believed the remark was a result of misinformation, said Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya.

Army chief Anupong Paojinda yesterday insisted Hun Sen's stance on Thaksin had no effect on the situation along the Thai-Cambodian border.

26 Oct 2009


Hun Sen promises not to heighten border tension: Suthep

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said Tuesday that he had held a talk with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen over sour relations of the two countries caused by Hun Sen's support for fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra.Suthep said he explained to Hun Sen that Thaksin had not been politically persecuted but he had breached the laws.Suthep said if Thaksin takes a refuge in Cambodia, the Thai government will seek his extradition in line with the legal channel and it will be up to the Cambodian court whether to approve the extradition request.He said the disputes of the two countries should be solved peacefully and the two countries should stop exchanging verbal attacks.Suthep also quoted Hun Sen as promising that the Cambodian prime minister would be careful not to cause border tension.