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

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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


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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

CAMBODIA AND THAILAND

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.

Thai PM rebukes Hun Sen








Thailand rebuked neighbouring Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday for his offer to let fugitive former Thai prime Thaksin Shinawatra stay 'anytime.

THAILAND rebuked neighbouring Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday for his offer to let fugitive former Thai prime Thaksin Shinawatra stay 'anytime.'
Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, in charge of national security, told reporters that Mr Hun Sen should not be meddling in Thailand's affairs after he reportedly said that Thaksin had not received justice at home.
'We have an extradition treaty with Cambodia, so if Thaksin goes there we will officially notify the Cambodian government and seek his extradition,' said Mr Suthep. 'This is Thailand's own internal affair and we can solve this issue by ourselves. No foreigner can solve an internal matter. Thai people can think for themselves.'
Cambodia's state-run TVK said Wednesday that Hun Sen made the invitation during a private meeting Wednesday with Chavalit Yongchaiyuth, a key member of Thailand's main opposition party Puea Thai.
Thaksin, on his online Twitter feed, thanked Hun Sen for his controversial invitation but stopped short of accepting it. 'I thank Prime Minister Hun Sen for telling the public that I am still his friend and that he would welcome me at any time and arrange a house for me in Phnom Penh,' Thaksin wrote.





Camb.embassy braces for protest



Security in front of the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok was tightened on Tuesday after members of the People's Assembly of Thailand led by Chaiwat Sinsuwong announced they would protest there against Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's offer of a home for fugitive politician Thaksin Shinawatra to Cambodia.
A company of police were deployed to guard around the embassy and metal barriers placed around the entrance.
Mr Chaiwat said in a radio interview in the morning that he would led a demonstration in front of the embassy and read a statement condemning Mr Hun Sen and Puea Thai Party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who met him in Phnom Penh last week.
"The People's Assembly of Thailand condemn the Cambodian prime minister for taking the opportunity during the Asean Summit to tell reporters that Cambodia would not hand over Thaksin if Thailand sought his extradition," he said. "This is an insult to Thailand, the Thai government and the Thai people, and it destroys good relations between the two countries."
He also demanded Mr Hun Sen to apologise to Thailand.
Mr Chaiwat stressed that the protesters would not attempt to surround the embassy.

The upside-down world of Hun Sen and Thaksin


The upside-down world of Hun Sen and Thaksin


The Thai government prepared to fend off a "red shirt" army at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, mounting security measures designed to prevent a repetition of the embarrassing scenes that disrupted a similar Asean meeting in Pattaya.
This time, the red shirts behaved well, unlike Cambodia's prime minister, Hun Sen, who called the fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra his "eternal friend" and compared him to Burma's Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi.
Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander known for his provocative remarks, said: "Many people talk about Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, why not talk about Thaksin? That cannot be referred to as interfering."
Was Hun Sen joking? Not really. The ill-considered remark from the head of the Cambodian government illustrated the quality of leadership we have in Asean.
Hun Sen's remark was not only an insult to Th ailand but also to Burma. The Cambodian prime minister should be made fully aware that Thaksin and Mrs Suu Kyi have nothing at all in common. There are thousands of reasons for ruling out any comparison. But let's look at just a few.
Mrs Suu Kyi is dedicated to the struggle for democracy and freedom in Burma. It won't matter whether Mrs Suu Kyi becomes leader of Burma or not - today she is a symbol of change in Burma and remains a beacon of hope in spite of the attempts to belittle her by a repressive regime that has locked her up in her own home for years.
Thaksin, a billionaire telecommunications tycoon, was ousted in a bloodless coup in 2006. He skipped bail after an indictment on corruption charges and has since been living at various locations, including Nicaragua, Montenegro and the United Arab Emirates.
During his time at the head of the Thai government, the press in Thailand was muzzled and he launched a "war on drugs", which killed more than 2,000 people who, if they had been legally dealt with and convicted, would have served prison terms.
Thaksin claimed that he and his government knew the situation in Burma very well because the two countries are immediate neighbours. Here are some facts.
Thaksin was a known friend of Burma's military regime. His government courted the junta by offering loans, improving border trade and sending numerous delegations to Rangoon.
During the Asean summit in Bali, Indonesia, in 2004, Thaksin surprised many of the delegates by giving Burma his unconditional support and praising then prime minister and feared spy chief Gen Khin Nyunt's "sincerity". Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo later told journalists that Thaksin defended Burma throughout the entire summit.
While other governments in the region - and worldwide - were voicing increasing criticism of the junta and championing speedy democratic change in Burma, Thaksin was seen to be defending the generals, investing in the country and promising piecemeal progress.
Thailand was then Burma's third most important investment partner, exporting goods worth around US$1.26 billion (43 billion baht) annually.
Thaksin also had his own business interests in Burma. In 2003, Shin Corp, the telecoms company owned until recently by Thaksin's family, signed a deal with Bagan Cybertech, the internet service provider run by Ye Naing Win, son of disgraced prime minister Gen Khin Nyunt.
In 2004, Thaksin visited the ancient former Burmese capital Pagan to sell his Economic Cooperation Strategy, and promised Burma aid and support worth $45 million.
He also set his sights on what he called the "excellent prospects" of Burma's tourism industry, proposing the construction of a ski resort in Burma's northern Kachin State and the development of the unspoilt beaches of Arakan State.
The "Bangkok Process", hosted by Thaksin's government to advance democracy in Burma, fizzled out when Burmese representatives failed to turn up for a planned second session - a clear demonstration that even the Burmese generals didn't count on him.
Back home, Thaksin's administration cracked down on Burmese seeking economic and political refuge in Thailand, raising concerns about a conflict of interest and doubts about Bangkok's ability to act as an honest broker in Burma's political standoff.
Sadly, Thaksin's government, by its attitude towards Burmese migrants and refugees living in Thailand, played the nationalism card in order to boost the prime minister's popularity.
In early 2004, UN human rights envoy Hina Jilani visited Thailand and said: "Many of the Burmese human rights defenders feel very insecure with regard to their freedom of movement inside Thailand." Not surprisingly, Ms Jilani received a cool reception in Bangkok.
Just before the 2006 coup, Thaksin stayed in his heavily-guarded home for a day because of a bomb threat, likening the experience to Mrs Suu Kyi's enforced house detention.
He said he sympathised with Mrs Suu Kyi. What, for not being able to go shopping for a day?
So, once and for all, let's make it clear to Hun Sen that Thaksin is no Suu Kyi.
Mrs Suu Kyi may have her shortcomings, but she has sacrificed much in her fight for democratic change in Burma. Her sacrifices include separation from her family and her enforced absence from the funeral of her beloved husband Michael Aris, who died of cancer in 1999 in London.
The fiasco caused by Hun Sen's remarks at the Asean summit should have been an embarrassment to the Burmese delegation and Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein, who told his Japanese counterpart that the military regime would consider relaxing Mrs Suu Kyi's house arrest terms, if she "maintains a good attitude".
Thein Sein's cynicism matches that of his boss, junta leader Snr Gen Than Shwe, who said in a letter published after Mrs Suu Kyi's farcical trial in August that if she behaved "well" at her Inya Lake home under the restrictions imposed on her, she would be granted amnesty before her suspended sentence expired.
Astonishingly, Singapore's foreign ministry reacted positively to Than Shwe's gesture, saying that while it was disappointed at the guilty verdict it was nonetheless "happy that the Myanmar government has exercised its sovereign prerogative to grant amnesty by halving her [Mrs Suu Kyi's] sentence and that she will be placed under house arrest rather than imprisoned".
The world must be upside down, if not flat.
What does Than Shwe mean, for instance, by requiring Mrs Suu Kyi to behave well under house arrest? Did Mrs Suu Kyi mismanage the economy and lead the resource-rich country into poverty?
Did Mrs Suu Kyi order the troops to kill Buddhist monks and activists on the streets or throw them into prison? Did Mrs Suu Kyi order soldiers to kill or rape ethnic minorities?
At least, Hun Sen and Thein Sein can be credited with livening up the Asean summit, even though the grouping has no shortage of clowns.

THAILAND AND CAMBODIA 27 10 2009

Senators call for protest over Hun Sen's remarks
"What Hun Sen said was out of line with diplomatic protocol which should be answered with a formal protest instead of a verbal spat," Senator Kamnoon Sithisaman said.Kamnoon also urged a delay in the parliamentary debate on three documents related to Cambodian-Thai border issues and effectively put on hold any negotiations on the 4.6-square kilometre disputed area surrounding the Preah Vihear Temple.He went on to demand that the government protest to the United Nations and Unesco for listing the temple as a World Heritage Site.Senator Anothai Rithipanyawong said Thais angered by the temple controversy will rally on November 2 at the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok.The number of people attending the upcoming rally is expected to swell due to the adverse sentiment following Hun Sen's remarks, he said.He added that the government must demonstrate to the people about its steadfastness in dealing with such remarks.Senator Paiboon Nititawan warned that anti-Cambodian sentiment in the Northeast would rise if Thaksin sought and received permission to live in exile in Cambodia."Time will come to revisit historical lessons about the battles between Thailand and Cambodia," he said.Paiboon said the government should act decisively to uphold national integrity instead of allowing bilateral economic interests to cloud its judgement.Senator Sumol Sutawiriya said Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva should not tolerate Hun Sen's snub. Thais want Cambodians to know that we will not allow them to trample on our national pride, she added.In a related development, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thuagsuban said he had had a two-hour talk with Hun Sen after the dinner for Asean leaders on Saturday.Suthep said he explained the full situation regarding Thaksin and the collapse of the two governments under Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat.He said he also told Hun Sen about the parliamentary means by which the Abhisit government came to power."Following my explanation, Hun Sen promised not to make any more comments on the matter," he said.Suthep said he urged the Cambodian prime minister to set aside personal feelings in order to advance bilateral ties.


Cambodian PM 'was misinformed'



The Foreign Ministry will send Cambodian Premier Hun Sen a note detailing former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's political status here to defuse tensions generated by Hun Sen's comments last week.

"I understand that Prime Minister Hun Sen made such remarks because he was misinformed about Thaksin and the whole situation in Thailand, so we have to give him the facts," Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said yesterday.Hun Sen said upon his arrival at the Asean Summit that he would offer Thaksin refuge in Cambodia and appoint him as an adviser. He said Thaksin was a victim of political changes in the wake of the 2006 coup."We will tell him what happened in Thailand over the past three years and that his many trials have nothing to do with the coup," Kasit said.The letter would not be an argument or condemnation of Hun Sen but just a plain description of Thaksin, the political situation and Thailand's justice system, he said.Many criminal cases arose before the coup and asset concealment actually took place only within Thaksin's family, he said. Hun Sen's invitation to Thaksin threw more fuel on the fire after the two countries have faced off over the controversial Preah Vihear Temple for over a year.The government had Deputy PM Suthep Thaugsuban explain the matter to Hun Sen during his two-night stay in Thailand. The foreign ministry would make the clarification and send it through diplomatic channels to him again within a week to make sure he gets the right picture, Kasit said.While declining to interpret Hun Sen's move, Kasit said his government would simply regard the incident as the Cambodian premier, who is an old friend of Thaksin, just getting the wrong idea.Kasit rejected a demand by a group of senators to retaliate against Hun Sen since the two governments have promised to jointly develop their countries and not to bring up internal politics. "We don't allow a minor thing to jeopardise the entire relationship," he said.





Anupong says Thai-Cambodian local military officials still have good ties

Army Commander-in-Chief Gen Anupong Paochinda said the Thai and Cambodian military officials in charge of the areas near the disputed border still have good relations.He said the military of the two countries would not use force to settle the dispute despite of exchange of verbal attacks between the two governments.He said the border disputes would be settled through bilateral mechanisms of the two countries."I hereby affirm that there will be no war and we will not use force to settle the disputes," Anupong said.

Chavalit draws govt ire. PM slams Puea Thai chairman's 'tactics'

Puea Thai Party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh has sparked a furious backlash from the government by insisting he will embark on trips to Burma and Malaysia in the wake of his remarks about ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra being welcome "any time" in Cambodia.
The government, which insists Gen Chavalit discredited the Thai administration by his visit with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, has made it clear the opposition party politician should not meddle in diplomatic affairs.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya yesterday asked Gen Chavalit to put the national interest before personal benefits ahead of his plans to visit other countries.
The government had no authority to block his travel plans but it would not succumb to pressure from other countries as a result of his visits, the prime minister said. Gen Chavalit will visit the lower South on Nov 3 followed by unscheduled trips to Malaysia and Burma, his close aide, Lt Gen Piratch Swamiwas, said yesterday.Gen Chavalit's first foreign trip after assuming the chairmanship of the opposition party was to Cambodia last Wednesday. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told him he welcomed Thaksin to Cambodia.
Hun Sen also said on Friday after coming to Thailand for the Asean summit that the Cambodian government would not hand over Thaksin if Thailand sought his extradition.
Mr Abhisit responded by asking Hun Sen to decide between personal relations and bilateral benefits with Thailand.
Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban met Hun Sen on Saturday to discuss issues involving Thaksin.
Hun Sen promised to stop saying anything that might damage Thailand, Mr Suthep told reporters yesterday in Cha-am district in Phetchaburi.
Mr Kasit also sent a stronger message to Gen Chavalit in his bid to have the Puea Thai chairman reconsider his diplomatic strategy.
"You should ask Gen Chavalit whether his visits to neighbouring countries will benefit Thailand," the foreign minister told reporters. "He should ask himself about what he is doing. Is it serving somebody?"
After the talks on Saturday between Mr Suthep and the Cambodian leader, the Foreign Ministry will submit evidence to Phnom Penh regarding the legal action taken against Thaksin.
It would be "factual" regarding the legal process the government was taking on the ousted prime minister, the foreign minister said.
Mr Kasit said he hoped that after the formal explanation, there would be no conflict between the two countries over Thaksin.
Lt Gen Piratch shrugged off the government's criticism and insisted Gen Chavalit had no plan to scrap his visits to Burma and Malaysia.
"He will meet leaders and will criticise no one," the aide said. "What Gen Chavalit is doing is not for anybody in particular. He used to give suggestions to the government but the government never listened to him."
Gen Chavalit said last week he would use his personal connections with leaders of neighbouring countries to clear their misunderstandings about Thailand.
He claimed the foreign policy under the Democrat-led government had caused strains.
The Cambodian prime minister's remark favouring Thaksin continued to upset a group of 40 senators who urged the government take a tougher diplomatic line on Cambodia.

business news in Cambodia

Govt agrees energy deal with KNOC of South Korea

THE Cambodian National Petroleum Authority (CNPA) entered into an agreement Friday with the Korean National Oil Corporation (KNOC) on future cooperation in exploration of oil and gas in the Kingdom.The memorandum of understanding on energy cooperation, which was signed during the visit of a South Korean delegation led by President Lee Myung-bak, will see both sides share geological data, human resources training and experience in the sector, said Council of Ministers chief Sok An.The deal also allows the state-run South Korean energy body to conduct oil and gas feasibility studies in the Kingdom’s offshore areas, a deal that would give “hope for the future in the search for … resources”, said KNOC Director Young Won-kang.The CNPA’s Deputy Director Ho Vichet said after the signing ceremony that the two-year agreement would entail data-collection followed by analysis before targeting specific areas. He added that capital allocation would be determined by both sides at a later date.The agreement is only preliminary, which means that the exact location and blocks to be explored have yet to be determined, he said.A 25,000-square-kilometre contested area with Thailand is thought to include the only two areas that the government has still not doled out – Area III, which is the subject of a delayed agreement with France’s Total, and Area IV, which has been the subject of recent bids by Chevron and Mitsui of Japan, according to reports.




Branching out



Employees of ACLEDA Bank watch a ceremony Friday to mark the launch of the bank’s newest branch, a new head office for Kampong Thom province in Kampong Thom town on National Highway 6. ACLEDA has now opened eight offices in the province, which at the end of September was hit by Typhoon Ketsana. Managers of the bank said the natural disaster had not affected the opening of the branch

Siem Reap Air tries to calm fears over jobs

Baggage handlers unload bags from a Bangkok Airways flight at Siem Reap International Airport.

With the end of domestic flights by parent firm Bangkok Air, some flight attendants are reportedly looking for employment


SIEM Reap Airways moved to allay employment fears among Cambodian cabin crew working for its parent company Bangkok Airways as the Thai airline operated its last flights on domestic routes Saturday.In a letter to staff obtained by the Post, Siem Reap Airways General Manager Terry Alton said the employment of all staff, including captains, first officers and cabin crew, would “continue as it has since last November”, referring to the month the airline ceased commercial operations after being blacklisted by the European Commission. Neither Siem Reap Airways nor Bangkok Airways runs domestic flights in Cambodia since the latter’s licence expired without renewal at the weekend.In the letter to staff, Alton said he had heard reports that “indicate captains, first officers and cabin crew will be suspended from duty as from 25 October 2009. "I would like to make it absolutely clear that this is not correct,” he wrote, adding that the airline is close to resuming full operations. Alton said in an interview that he planned to discuss the matter with staff in person Tuesday after sending the letter Friday.Bangkok Airways Deputy Manager of International Media Relations Ekkaphon Nanta O’Sot said Friday that the employment of cabin staff was a matter for Siem Reap Airways, as they were employed only on domestic routes, but confirmed that pilots were employed by Bangkok Airways and would continue to be scheduled on international flights.A Bangkok Airways pilot, who previously flew for Siem Reap Airways but is now an employee of the Thai airline, said he had no concerns over his future employment. “I have no problems because Bangkok Airways still has international flights,” said the pilot, who asked not to be identified. “The government has only closed domestic flights.”However, the pilot said he was paid on the number of landings he made and was worried that he would be scheduled on fewer flights with the end of Siem Reap-Phnom Penh route. He added that concerns were rising among cabin staff.One flight attendant said she had already had an interview for a job with the new national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA). The attendant, who asked to remain anonymous, said co-workers had also applied to CAA due to mounting fears over their jobs.Bangkok Airways took over the routes from Siem Reap Airways last November, using cabin crew on loan from the grounded airline. Staff continued to be employed by the domestic subsidiary, which is currently in negotiations with aircraft owners to lease a plane for registration in Cambodia. It has been cleared by the government for takeoff as soon as it registers a plane locally.Bangkok Airways flew its last domestic routes between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh on Saturday after the government said last month it would not renew the permit as the part government-owned carrier CAA was operating. CAA is a joint venture between the Cambodian government and Vietnam Airlines, which owns 49 percent. It emerged this month that the airline has not yet been registered in Cambodia and is flying under a Vietnam Airlines air operator certificate as it completes local registration processes.

Disaster authority revises toll from Ketsana, warns of food shortages


DISASTER officials revised their estimates of the damage caused by Typhoon Ketsana upwards on Sunday, declaring that more than 66,000 families forced from their homes by floodwaters are facing imminent food shortages.At least 43 people died and 67 were seriously injured during the killer typhoon and its ensuing floods, National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM) spokesman Keo Vy said. Kampong Thom province, which bore the brunt of the storm, suffered the heaviest casualties, with 20 deaths. Siem Reap province recorded eight fatalities, four died in Preah Sihanouk; Kampong Cham, Kampot and Ratanakkiri reported three deaths each. Two died in Kampong Chhnang.Uy Sam Ath, director of disaster management at the Cambodian Red Cross (CRC), said that so far, his organisation has provided emergency food and non-food relief to 44,885 families, spending nearly $53 million on food aid alone – dwarfing the NCDM’s running Ketsana damage estimate of $44 million. “This food is enough to live on for the time being, but we cannot sustain this relief for much longer,” he said. “I really regret what happened in our country. So much was destroyed in such a short time.”Canals inundated with runoff from Ketsana have compounded the misery of hundreds of families in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district, who have been displaced by floods that have been blamed on the filling-in of Boeung Kak lake. Ly Rosyami, Russey Keo district deputy governor, said Sunday that the flooding has affected 2,409 families in Russey Keo district so far.“We’ve surveyed the number of families affected by floods in four of Russey Keo’s communes and found that out of these, 262 families had to leave their homes and rent accommodation elsewhere,” she said. Data from other communes have yet to be collated because flooding has rendered them inaccessible. Keath Chantha, 43, a widow and mother of five, fled her home a month ago and is still waiting for the water to recede. “Hundreds of poor families are still living in their flooded homes, some of them lacking food, but none of the authorities are providing food for them,” she said.Kep Chuktema, governor of Phnom Penh, vowed to improve infrastructure in the district. “Next year, we will build a dam station in Russey Keo district to protect the area from flooding,” he said.

Thaksin a central figure at 15th ASEAN summit

Hun Sen arrives at Phnom Penh International Airport after attending the 15th ASEAN summit in southern Thailand.

Hun Sen’s overtures to Thai ex-PM stoke rhetorical flames, but Hor Namhong emphasises progress on regional economic ties, meeting with US president.


RIME Minister Hun Sen, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and the rest of the Cambodian delegation returned Sunday from the 15th ASEAN summit in Hua Hin, Thailand, a meeting at which leaders faced distraction by Hun Sen’s controversial invitation to Thai ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.Speaking to reporters after his arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport, Hor Namhong said that ASEAN leaders had focused on bolstering economic ties both within the bloc and with global allies.“There will be a meeting between leaders of ASEAN and US President Barack Obama on November 15 in Singapore,” Hor Namhong said, adding that regular meetings between the US and ASEAN would occur in the future.China, meanwhile, promised to increase its loans to ASEAN nations to US$6.5 billion, while Japan “will look for investment in developing members of ASEAN including Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar,” Hor Namhong said.Away from the meeting rooms in Hua Hin, though, Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva engaged in a war of words stemming from Hun Sen’s invitation for the exiled Thaksin, on the run from Thailand following his ouster in a 2006 coup and conviction on corruption charges, to come to Cambodia and serve as his economic adviser. “Millions of Thai people, the Red Shirts, support Thaksin. Why as a friend can’t I support Thaksin?” Hun Sen said in Hua Hin, adding: “Many people talk about Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar, why not talk about Thaksin? That cannot be referred to as interfering.”Abhisit rebuked his guest, telling reporters there was no comparison with the Myanmar opposition leader. “I don’t know how many people share [Hun Sen’s] view that Thaksin is like Aung San Suu Kyi. I doubt there are many, for fairly obvious reasons,” Abhisit said.Thailand deployed thousands of security forces in and around Cha-Am over the weekend in order to avoid repeats of disruptions at previous summits. Bangkok’s The Nation newspaper reported Sunday, however, that members of the anti-Thaksin People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) plan to protest next month outside the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok. Hor Namhong said that despite recent differences, the Cambodian government had “received assurances from Thai authorities that they will protect our embassy.”

THAILAND TODAY

A group of Muslim women pray for those killed following the protest by Muslim people at the Tak Bai police station five years ago. Muslim youths held a ceremony at the Thai Cultural Centre to remember the incident.


Asean chief Surin Pitsuwan gives a speech on "Asean Economic Community : A New Landscape in 2015" organised by Asean Business Forum at Plaza Atthenee Hotel on Monday.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva delivers a speech on "Asean : What the future holds" organised by Asean Business Forum at Plaza Atthenee Hotel on Monday.

University students from deep south provinces pray to mark the fifth anniversary of Tak Bai massacre and sixth anniversary of the southern violence.










PM: Start preparing now for the AEC

Both the public and private sectors must begin preparing for the transformation of Southeast Asia into a single economic entity to be known as the Asean Economic Community (AEC), Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Monday.


Asean member countries plan to launch the AEC to enable the free flow of goods in 2015."All sides need to understand the AEC's agreements and restrictions.

''In most cases, people will say they have little time to adjust when they are enforced," Mr Abhisit said.The government would have to work more closely with the public and private sectors so they would understand the various terms and conditions."I am particularly concerned about some trade and investment agreements relating to the agricultural sector, but I have assigned appropriate agencies to look into the restrictions being placed on us. "Some countries have problems similar to Thailand, while others have tax or work permission problems. There will be negotiations and ways to compensate for the restrictions," he said.Some laws could be applied to protect people affected by the establishment of the AEC.He said Asean member states were determined not to let their internal political problems hold back the regional economy"It's normal for neighbouring countries to have some problems between them.
''There were disagreements at times during the 15th Asean Summit last weekend, but no leaders were hesitant about expanding cooperation," Mr Abhisit said.

Asian nations jostle for power in EU-style bloc

Asia's moves toward an EU-style community covering half the world's population have sparked a backroom power play led by the United States, China and Japan, diplomats and analysts said Monday.
Leaders at a summit of 16 nations meeting in Thailand at the weekend heard the prime ministers of Australia and Japan set out competing visions for a regional bloc that would boost Asia's global clout.
But beneath the talk of unity and the "Asian Century" lie intense diplomatic manoeuvrings, with countries desperate to avoid being marginalised in a new regional framework that could still be years off.
"The waters may be calm on the surface, but the undercurrent is sometimes turbulent," a veteran Southeast Asian diplomat told AFP after the summit in the Thai beach resort of Hua Hin.

A central question is the role that the United States and China would play in any future grouping.
"Some countries want the United States to be part of a future regional framework as a counterbalance to China's influence," the diplomat said, asking not to be named.
Japanese premier Yukio Hatoyama, who pushed his plan at the summit for an East Asian community that could "lead the world", would not be drawn on the extent of proposed US involvement despite Tokyo's close ties to Washington.
But Australian leader Kevin Rudd's vision for an Asia-Pacific Community by 2020 explicitly includes Washington.
"Whether we like it or not, I think we could not avoid a US role because the US is a big country which has powers both in economic and security matters," said Chaiwat Khamchoo, an analyst at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.
"Some countries in the region are suspicious of each other so they want the US to play a role."
After the distractions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has only recently re-engaged with the region, particularly in Southeast Asia where Washington's hard line on military-ruled Burma kept it at a distance.
With Japan kept busy by its economic woes, China has boosted its influence across the region in recent years, signing a free trade agreement with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
India has tried to play catch-up, belatedly signing its own trade pact with the bloc.
Russia has meanwhile applied to join the East Asia Summit, this weekend's meeting which groups Asean with China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.
But next month US President Barack Obama will hold the first ever summit with Asean leaders, as well as attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Singapore.
Earlier this year US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the "US is back in Southeast Asia".
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in an interview with the Bangkok Post published Monday that any future Asia-wide community "must engage" with the United States.
"We should see to what extent we can integrate them (the United States) into the East Asian Community," he said.
And while the big players jockey for position, Asean itself is trying to stay in the driving seat of any new grouping.
This is based on the fact that it already hosts the main annual meetings with the region's major powers, especially the East Asia Summit.
But Asian leaders did appear to agree at this weekend's summit that they need some new framework to hold together their diverse and sometimes fractious region.
A closer community would help Asia capitalise on its relatively quick recovery from the global economic crisis and to cut its dependence on the West to drive growth, they said.
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in his closing remarks to the summit on Sunday that the "old growth model" in which Asia relies on consumption in the West "will no longer serve us as we move into the future."

Hun Sen's words linger




The problem caused by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's comments was not serious enough for Thailand to sever ties with Phnom Penh and will not have any adverse effects on the 15th Asean Summit, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Monday.
After arriving at Hua Hin Airport to attend the15th Asean Summit on Friday, Prime Minister Hun Sen told reporters that he would welcome fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to Cambodia, would deny extradition and would appoint him as his economic adviser. Asked whether Thailand would seek Thaksin's extradition, Mr Abhisit said it was still uncertain whether the fugitive former prime minister would really be staying in Cambodia.
He earlier asked Phnom Penh to reconsider.
Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya's secretary, Chawanon Intharakomansut, said the Foreign Ministry had not asked the government to consider downgrading diplomatic ties with Cambodia in response to Mr Hun Sen's statements.
"We'll observe Cambodia's reaction now that Prime Minister Abhisit has called on the Cambodian premier to reconsider this issue carefully and focus on bilateral ties and benefits to both countries instead of one person's personal interests."The Thai government would look for new ways to bring Thaksin back to Thailand if the Cambodian government refuses to extradite him," he said.Three senators on MOnday called for Prime Minister Abhisit to issue a formal response to the Cambodian leader‘s “unethical” action in using the regional summit to show his personal support for Thaksin.Senators Paiboon Nititawan, Khamnoon Sithisamarn and Sumon Sutaviriya said at a press conference that the prime minister's verbal responses were not enough. He should also issue a formal statement on the Cambodian prime minister's unethical use of the international forum in Hua Hin.Mr Khamnoon said Mr Abhisit's statement should adhere to diplomatic principles but at the same time clearly show Thailand's standpoint regarding Thaksin.He urged the government to announce an indefinite delay of parliament's consideration of three memoranda of understanding on Thai-Cambodian border talks over the 4.6-square-kilometre area in dispute around the Preah Vihear temple, as required by Article 190 of the constitution, to show its dissatisfaction with the Cambodian leader.Mr Khamnoon said most people were very unhappy with the Cambodian premier’s announced stance, which had sowed the seeds of conflict between the Thai and Cambodian people.Therefore, the prime minister should counter Mr Hun Sen's action with a formal statement..Mr Paiboon called on the government to adopt a tough policy with Cambodia and give more importance to national integrity and existence than to trivial economic interests.Burmese people in Thailand were very displeased that Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen likened his friend Thaksin with the plight of their arrested democracy icon, Aung San Suu Kyi, by saying they were both victims of political persecution.His comment caused a group of Burmese politicians, students and villagers to gather near the Burmese border in Tak's Mae Sot district on Monday morning. "Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 14 years, is an unconditional fighter for democracy, has never thought of fleeing the country and is not fighting for her personal interests. She cannot be compared with Thaksin," a Burmese student said.

25 Oct 2009

Japan backs East Asian role for USABHISIT'' HATOYAMA HOLD TALKS"

CHA-AM : Japan yesterday backed a US role for the East Asian Community, telling Southeast Asian leaders Tokyo's alliance with Washington was at the heart of its diplomacy.
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said in talks with Asean leaders there should be some US involvement in the bloc, according to Kazuo Kodama, the spokesman for the Japanese delegation.
It was unclear how a US role would work. But the comment may help allay concern in some countries that such a body would ultimately fail by shutting out the world's biggest economy.
"It is too premature to discuss the membership of this long-term envisioned community," the spokesman said.
In an interview with the Bangkok Post prior to his departure for the summit, Mr Hatoyama said the US-Japan alliance was the fundamental cornerstone of Japanese foreign policy.
The message was repeated in yesterday's meeting with Southeast Asian leaders.
The Japanese premier suggested that the proposed co-operation should include areas such as trade, investment finance, education, the environment, disaster management and maritime affairs.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd today will push another idea for a new, separate forum of Asia-Pacific nations to respond to regional crises. His idea also includes the United States.
Washington has stepped up Asian diplomacy under President Barack Obama's administration and fears missing out on such groupings, especially as Japan considers redefining its US security alliance and Beijing expands its diplomatic and trade presence.
Exactly how Washington would participate is as yet uncertain.
Asked if Washington would be a member of the community, a Japanese government official said: "It remains unclear. We have to see how multilateral meetings will turn out today." The proposal wasn't elaborated upon, according to Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu. "How the US participates - because the US is one of our dialogue partners - we need to think through," said Ms Pangestu.
Japan used the 15th Asean summit to seek support on the East Asia Community and to promoted its readiness to enhance cooperation with Asean countries, especially those in the Mekong sub-region. Mr Hatoyama will host a meeting with leaders from the Mekong countries including Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in Japan between Nov 6 and 7 as he wanted to have a close discussion on the development of the sub-region, the spokesman said.
Mr Hatoyama held bilateral talks with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for the first time on the sidelines of the summit.
The two leaders agreed that Japan and Thailand's economic partnership agreement was still an important tool in helping promote economic growth between the two countries.
Japan pledged to provide financial assistance to small and medium business corporations of Thailand.

Sustainability is the watchword in biofuels

For better or worse Thailand, like many other countries around the world, is committed to the promotion of biofuels to relieve the country's dependence on imported fossil fuels. Energy Minister Wannarat Channukul has reaffirmed the present government's commitment to the 15-year development plan for renewable and alternative fuels which was finalised last year.


He said the goal at the end of the 15-year period is for biofuels to replace 460 billion baht in crude oil imports.
Part of the plan is to promote a greater demand for biofuels through subsidies, offering tax incentives to motorists and even attempts to implement regulations requiring the use of biofuel mixtures.
The government's strategy to make biofuels more available and appealing is unwavering, despite the numerous reports of negative and ecologically counter-productive effects of using agricultural products to produce biofuels.
Biofuels are being blamed for everything from higher food prices to hastening the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
Paiboon Ponsuwanna, chairman of the food industry club of the Federation of Thai Industries, pointed out that many in the food industry are concerned about the possibility of competition in the future between land for growing energy crops and for food.
As biofuels look to be a permanent fixture in Thailand's energy picture, and as more agricultural land is devoted to growing crops for conversion to ethanol, it would be well to take a look at the situation in Brazil, the acknowledged pioneer in the use of biofuels.
In Brazil, by law, all gasoline contains a minimum of 25% alcohol, yet ethanol actually accounts for close to 50% of all vehicle fuel.
Brazilian biorefineries which use sugar cane are able to supply all of the domestic needs with a lot to spare for the export market.
In response to widespread criticism of its biofuels industry, the Brazilian government has prohibited new sugar cane fields in the Amazon region, as well as in a huge wetland area known as the Pantanal.
The government is confident it can meet rising demands without expanding into ecologically sensitive areas, by using degraded agricultural land which is now not in use.
Similarly, in trying to meet the rising demand for biofuels, the Thai government must also strictly enforce existing laws which prohibit encroachment into healthy forests and wetlands.
Another practice the Brazilian government is trying to put an end to is the burning of cane fields to get rid of the leaves, common in Thailand as well as in Brazil. It is estimated that this produces nearly 4,500 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide per hectare.
Not only that, it robs the soil of organic materials for fertilisers.
A major innovation being tried in Brazil which should be incorporated into Thailand's bioenergy production scheme is the rotation of fast-growing food crops, like certain varieties of soybean and peanuts, with the sugar cane (in Thailand cane molasses) used to produce ethanol. This involves direct planting, in which fields are not tilled and the organic waste is allowed to remain as fertiliser.
In some cases food crops are planted alongside the cane and grown concurrently. Through these sorts of practices it is hoped the production of biofuels can be made to be truly ecologically sustainable.
Perhaps the most important steps toward that goal are being taken at experimental operations in which cellulosic material _ the leaves, stems, husks and other non-food portions of plants _ are broken down into their component sugars and then fermented to make ethanol. Proponents believe the process can be made commercially viable and that cars could be running cleanly on a limitless supply of agricultural waste.
Clearly this won't become a reality overnight, and few people believe that even conventional biofuel production can fully substitute for Thailand's oil imports. Nevertheless it is important that the preparations being made to turn the country into a large-scale producer of biofuels take sustainability into consideration at every step of the way.

Walkout, absences mar Asean summit opening

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, fifth from left, link hands with ASEAN leaders during group shot before the ASEAN-Japan meeting at the 15th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, in Cha-am of Hua Hin district, south of Bangkok, Thailand, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009. From left to right, Laos Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh, Myanmar's Thein Sein, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo, Singapore's Lee Hsien Loong, Hatoyama, Thailand's Abhisit Vejjajiva, Vietnam's Nguyen Tan Dung, Malaysia's Najib Razak, Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Cambodia's Hun Sen, and ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan. (AP Photo/Sukree Sukplang, Pool



CHA-AM, THAILAND, Philippines — Southeast Asian nations inaugurated a sharply criticized human rights commission Friday as tropical storms, domestic politics and VIP visits caused nearly half their leaders to miss the opening of their annual summit.
Representatives of civil society groups immediately blasted the commission and walked out of a meeting to protest being cold-shouldered by five governments, including the Philippines.
The annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) began inauspiciously when half the bloc’s 10 leaders failed to show up at the opening of the three-day conference.
The summit will also discuss how best to achieve economic integration by 2015.
The leaders of the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei did not arrive in time for the opening of the meeting.
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was running late due to Typhoon “Ramil” (internationally called “Lupit”), the third storm in a month due to hit the Philippines, her spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is hosting a visit by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Indonesia is swearing in a new government and Malaysia’s government was presenting its budget to Parliament.
Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah didn’t show up amid reports that he was not feeling well.
A first in 42-year history
One of the first orders of business was the inauguration of the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights which critics say will do little to deter human rights violators, like member Burma (Myanmar), because it imposes no punishments and focuses on promotion rather than protection of human rights.
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva called the move “a significant milestone in the evolution of Asean.” It is the first human rights watchdog in the bloc’s 42-year history.
“The issue of human rights is not about condemnation but about awareness,” he said.
A shadow was immediately cast over the body when five Asean governments rejected members of civil society groups they had been scheduled to meet Friday, said Debbie Stothard of The Asean People’s Forum, an umbrella group of nongovernment organizations.
The governments of the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Burma and Singapore would not take part in what was to have been an Asean-Civil Society dialogue if the five activists from their countries were present, Stothard said.
Big shame
Instead, some of those countries flew in substitutes from so-called civil society organizations with Burma including a former senior police official, Stothard said.
When the meeting took place without the original civil society representatives, those from Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia walked out in protest.
“It is a big shame to our dreams for genuine democracy in the region. It’s like all of the human rights of the people in this region have been violated,” said Sister Crescenia L. Lucero, a Roman Catholic nun who was to have represented the Philippines at the dialogue.
“It does not bode well for the human rights commission. Asean has lost credibility,” Stothard said.
Work in progress
Asean officials respond that the commission is a work in progress and can be strengthened in the future.
They say that agreement on human rights standards is difficult within a grouping that includes two communist states, two kingdoms, a sultanate and military-ruled Burma.
Members of Asean have escalated their criticism of Burma. But the summit will again likely avoid confrontations and maintain that the group’s approach to engaging Burma works better than the West’s sanctions and threats.
The summit will also sign a declaration on climate change and discuss food security, bio-energy, disaster management and how trade barriers can be brought down to bring about a European Union-style grouping within the next six years.
The bloc will also meet with leaders of China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.
Massive security
Thailand has deployed more than 36,000 military and police both in Bangkok and to guard the summit at the beach resort of Cha-am, 200 kilometers south of the capital.
“Security forces have also set up emergency escape routes by land, air and sea,” Panitan said. “We don’t expect it to be necessary but we want to be ready and to assure leaders that they will be able to meet without distraction.”
The government is still smarting from the storming of the East Asian Summit in April in Pattaya, where protesters charged through thin police ranks and forced the evacuation of several leaders by helicopter and boat.
Security forces have also been empowered to impose curfews and restrict freedom of movement around Cha-am and Bangkok.
Legarda appeal
In Manila, Sen. Loren Legarda has urged Ms Arroyo to seek the deferment of the implementation of the Asean Trade in Goods Agreement (Atiga), saying it will wipe out all trade barriers for traded goods—including agricultural produce—in Asean states starting January 2010.
Legarda, chair of the Senate agriculture and food committee, said that Trade Secretary Peter Favila earlier signed the Atiga “without the knowledge of the Senate and media.”
With the Philippine rural folk reeling from the effects of back-to-back storms, Legarda asked whether it was for the government to allow imported agricultural goods such as rice and corn to enter the country zero-tariff and devastate millions of rural families. Reports from AP, AFP and Michael Lim Ubac in Manila

Maoists getting arms from B'desh, Myanmar: Chidambaram

Chidambaram said the government is practical enough to understand that the Naxals will not lay down arms.
Maoists are acquiring weapons through Bangladesh, Myanmar and possibly Nepal, according to Home Minister P Chidambaram, who nonetheless has expressed government's willingness for a dialogue with them provide they abjure violence.
Naxalism remains the biggest internal security threat to India, he said and hit out at intellectuals who still try to "romanticise" the naxalites.
In a wide-ranging interview on Saturday, Chidambaram said the government is practical enough to understand that the Naxals will not lay down arms.
He said the West Bengal government has "learnt a lesson very late" after the Lalgarh operation but he would not comment much on the West Bengal government's decision to secure the release of an abducted police official by not opposing the bail application of about 20 pro-Maoist trials.
"In terms of the threat to security from Indian sources or internal sources, Naxalism remains the biggest threat. There is, of course, the other threat which is cross border terrorism but that is emanating from across the border," he said.

Vietnam’s inflation quickens for second month on food

Vendors sit behind their vegetable stalls at a Hanoi market
Vietnamese inflation accelerated for a second month, driven by higher food prices amid faster economic expansion
.

Prices climbed 2.99 percent in October from a year earlier after gaining 2.42 percent in September, the General Statistics Office said in Hanoi Friday. On a monthly basis, prices rose 0.37 percent in October from September. Vietnamese inflation reached a year-on-year rate of 28.3 percent in August 2008, the highest since at least 1992.
“The favorable base effect from last year is now fading away,” said Tai Hui, the Singapore-based head of Southeast Asian economic research at Standard Chartered Plc, who expects inflation to reach between 5.5 and 6 percent by year-end. “The month-on-month figure is actually quite encouraging, though. For Vietnam, 0.4 percent month-on-month is a low figure.”
Inflation has quickened from a seven-year low of 1.97 percent in August, stoked by loan growth that looks set to exceed 30 percent, a government target that had already been revised up from 25 percent. The Vietnamese economy is forecast to expand 6.5 percent in 2010, up from an estimated 5.2 percent this year, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told the National Assembly this week.
“Rising inflation is one potential stumbling block for the economy,” Vinacapital Investment Management Ltd. said last week. “Several multilateral institutions, including the Asian Development Bank, have expressed caution over rising inflation risks.”
Government focus
Inflation may be gaining steam in part because of what Vinacapital described last month as a greater government focus on maintaining growth than on containing price gains.
Vietnam’s government believes “all efforts” should be made to ease the country’s economic slowdown, including the promotion of exports and the stimulation of investment through “expanded fiscal and flexible monetary policies,” central bank Governor Nguyen Van Giau said this month. The government is also committed to “actively preventing the recurrence of inflation,” Giau said.
The International Monetary Fund said this month that a greater focus on inflation in Vietnam is appropriate, citing indications of strength in the economy.
“Moderate price pressures continue to build,” said Paul Gruenwald, the Singapore-based chief Asia economist for Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.
Inflation triggers
Overall food prices rose 2.54 percent in October from a year earlier, up from a 1.79 percent gain in the previous month. On a monthly basis, food prices increased 0.32 percent in October from September.
Inflation is being triggered by “international food and energy commodity prices,” Robert Prior-Wandesforde, a senior economist at HSBC Holdings Plc in Singapore, wrote in a note this month that predicted Vietnam will have to raise interest rates by the most in Asia next year. “Food and energy together account for more than half of the country’s headline CPI basket.”
Vietnamese rice prices have advanced about 8 percent since last month, the U.S. Agriculture Department said last week.
“The increase is a largely a result of anticipation of a large sale to the Philippines later this year and recent government price stabilization purchases,” the department said.
Prices in the category including transportation fell 4.56 percent in October from a year earlier, compared with a 6.18 percent decline in September. On a monthly basis, prices in the category climbed 0.77 percent.
“Inflation may potentially go back to a higher level, fueled by credit growth and by the recovery of import prices as the global economy recovers,” Indochina Capital Vietnam Holdings Ltd. said this month.

Lawmakers want lower budget deficit target next year

Vietnamese legislators said the 2010 budget deficit should be kept at 6 percent of gross domestic product instead of 6.5 percent as projected by the government.

House members discuss budget deficit at a session in Hanoi Friday
Vietnamese legislators said the 2010 budget deficit should be kept at 6 percent of gross domestic product instead of 6.5 percent as projected by the government.
Fiscal policies need to be tightened, Ho Chi Minh City representative Tran Du Lich said on Friday at a meeting of the National Assembly, the country’s highest lawmaking body.
If public capital spending was not monitored closely, there would be a high risk of inflation, he said.
Many lawmakers said it was necessary to tackle the growing deficit, which the National Assembly Finance and Budget Committee has forecast to stand at 6.9 percent of GDP this year, up from 4.1 percent in 2008. They wanted the government to cut the deficit to 6 percent next year.
But Finance Minister Vu Van Ninh said the government was aiming to keep the budget deficit at 6.5 percent of GDP in 2010 because revenue sources were not expected to grow next year.
Many tariff lines would be cut next year, reducing government revenue by around VND3 trillion, Ninh said.
As a result, if the budget deficit next year had to be cut to 6 percent, the government would need to ask localities to contribute more, or investment, social welfare and salaries would need to be reduced, he said.
“The important thing is government debt is still in the safe zone,” Ninh said, noting that many other countries also have budget deficits as they want to spend money for economic development.
Vietnam’s government debt is forecast to stand at 40 percent of its gross domestic product this year, up from 36.5 percent in 2007, the National Assembly Finance and Budget Committee said earlier this month. The debt may continue to surge to 44 percent of GDP next year.
However, Lich said Vietnam’s authorities were not excellent forecasters, implying that government revenue sources may not fall next year as expected by the government.
The government set the 2009 budget deficit target at 7 percent of GDP after there were forecasts that government revenue would fall by as much as VND60 trillion this year, Lich said.
But revenue has been on the rise so far this year, he said, asking why the full-year budget deficit was still expected to reach only 6.9 percent of GDP despite sharp revenue hikes.
Lich said although the government had not successfully raised funds through bond sales but “there was still enough money for investment.”
“So why did the government have to hold bond auctions in the first place?” he asked.
Vietnam’s government reportedly aimed to raise up to US$1 billion from bond issuances on the domestic market in 2009, Standard & Poor’s said in a report last month. “However, the weak demand for its offerings in late August suggests that this target is unlikely to be met. The low interest rate that the government was willing to pay did little to attract investor interest.”
Standard & Poor’s forecast government budget deficit to rise to 6.7 percent of GDP this year. “This reflects both an expectation of weaker economic performance in the year as well as countercyclical measures the government is undertaking,” said the US-based provider of independent investment research.
The forecast compares with an estimate of 10.3 percent of GDP by the Asian Development Bank last month.
Vietnam’s GDP growth this year is projected to hit a decade-low of 5.2 percent, in line with a target of around 5 percent set by legislators, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said on Tuesday.

24 Oct 2009

Thai minister downplays rift with Cambodia

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya yesterday downplayed tension between Cambodia and Thailand, saying discussions with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Asean Summit had been 'civil' and 'we will not allow any incident to be a hindrance to the overall relationship'.

Just hours earlier, the right-wing People's Alliance for Democracy said Hun Sen was not welcome in Thailand and demanded that Cambodian troops be withdrawn from a disputed area at the Preah Vihear temple on the border between the two countries.

Briefing reporters on the day's proceedings at the summit, Kasit said Cambodia and Thailand continue to have 'dialogue and cooperation'.

He said Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the Cambodian Premier had pledged earlier this year that no incident would be allowed to damage the relationship. On Friday, Abhisit had rebuked Hun Sen for insisting that ousted Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra was welcome in Cambodia.

Hun Sen had also said he would make Thaksin his economic adviser, and compared the fugitive billionaire to Myanmar's pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi - a parallel that visibly irked Abhisit.

Thaksin, who became prime minister in 2001, was removed in a military coup in September 2006, and was accused of corruption, cronyism and disrespect for Thailand's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He has fled overseas to dodge a jail sentence.

Meanwhile, in another bilateral meeting on the summit sidelines, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao agreed to 'gradually narrow differences on border issues between the two countries', China's Xinhua news agency reported. Mr Singh said 'neither side should let our differences act as impediment to the growth of functional cooperation between the two countries', according to a statement on the website of India's Ministry of External Affairs.