Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thais rally over Cambodia border dispute

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Thousands of demonstrators accused the Thai government Wednesday of yielding a disputed border region with an ancient temple to Cambodia, the latest trouble for the embattled prime minister who has been facing daily protests calling for his resignation.
Led by the People's Alliance for Democracy, about 5,000 people gathered in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and accused the minister, Noppadon Pattama, of giving into the Cambodians in exchange for business concessions.
The Preah Vihear temple, dating back to the 11th century, has been the subject of a boundary dispute since the 1950s. The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the cliffside temple was within Cambodian territory.
Accusing the government of corruption and abuse of power, demonstrators have been holding sometimes violent protests since May 25 to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and his coalition government.
The protesters say Samak is merely acting as a proxy for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in September 2006.
The political discord heightened Wednesday after opposition Democrat Party lawmakers lodged a no-confidence motion against Samak and seven other Cabinet members over alleged conflict of interest and mismanagement.
The Preah Vihear temple issue resurfaced as Cambodia was preparing to apply to UNESCO for the temple to be listed as a World Heritage Site, a process that requires the inclusion of a map.
Sondhi Limthongkul, a key leader of the anti-government alliance, alleged that Noppadon gave up some territory near the temple in exchange for his "boss" — Thaksin — getting concessions to develop a casino complex on Cambodia's Koh Kong island.
Noppadon served as Thaksin's lawyer and continues to have close ties with him.
Waving Thai flags, the protesters held up placards reading, "Thailand is not for sale," and "Bandit government sold Thai soil to Cambodia."
Noppadon denied the allegations.
"The minister of foreign affairs deserves flowers instead of brickbats," Noppadon said, adding that not "a single square centimeter" of Thai soil was lost during recent negotiations with Cambodia.
He said Cambodia had drawn up two maps, one of the temple and the other of the adjacent area.
Noppadon said the Cambodians will present only the temple map in their upcoming request to UNESCO. The second map, which includes the disputed boundary, will not be an issue and thus Thailand has not yielded any territory, he said.
Samak's People Power Party won general elections last December. His new Cabinet is packed with Thaksin's allies and relatives, and critics say rehabilitating the former leader is among the new government's top priorities.
A court disbanded Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party last year and banned him from public office until 2012.

Thailand endorses Cambodia map of disputed temple

BANGKOK, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Thailand's Cabinet on Tuesday endorsed a new map of the disputed Preah Vihear temple drawn by neighboring Cambodia, which would pave the way for Cambodia's application to list the temple as a World Heritage Site.
Cambodia will present the yet-to-be disclosed new map as a key document to experts of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at a meeting in Quebec next month.
Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said Tuesday the disputed and undemarcated 4.6-square kilometer area surrounding and adjacent to the temple complex is not included on the map, addressing Thai public controversy over sovereignty claim, according to Thai News Agency.
The minister also emphasized that all details in the new map would be released after the World Heritage Committee meets in July to consider the matter.
The 21-nation committee is scheduled to meet in Quebec beginning July 2 to decide whether or not to grant the world heritage site status to the temple.
UNESCO had made clear that the two neighbors must first settle their differences before it accepts the application of the Cambodian government to list the temple as world heritage site.
Historically, both Thailand and Cambodia have claimed the ancient Khmer-style temple complex and the surrounding area overlapping disputed border territories of the two countries.
The International Court of Justice in Hague ruled in 1962 that the temple complex itself, which stands atop a cliff, belonged to Cambodia. But the only convenient access to the temple lies on the side of Thailand in Kantharalak district of the northeastern province of Si Sa Ket.
Government critics and opposition have blamed the current government for "giving away Thai territory".
The anti-government group People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD)on Tuesday issued a statement calling for Thai ambassadors, charged' affairs, consuls, and officials of the Foreign Ministry to come out to "maintain the country's sovereignty" regarding the Preah Vihear temple.
The PAD, which has staged continuous rallies in central Bangkok since May 25 to call for the current Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to step down, said it would demonstrate before the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday to pressure the government.
Editor: Yan Liang

Cambodia breaks ground on its highest skyscraper

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia on Wednesday broke ground for what will be the country's highest skycraper, a 52-storey tower slated to become the "landmark" of the low-rise capital Phnom Penh.
The one-billion-dollar International Finance Complex (IFC) is being backed by South Korea's GS E&C company and is expected to be completed in 2012.
The project is being hailed by Cambodia's leaders as a symbol of the country's galloping economy, which has averaged 11 percent growth over the past three years.
"IFC is the highest building in the history of Cambodia's capital and is a symbol of the economic growth in Cambodia," said Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.
Kevin K.R. Kim, the Korean firm's CEO, said the project will contribute to the development of Cambodia and become "the landmark of Phnom Penh city."
The site, located near the Tonle Bassac River, includes plans for offices, 275 serviced apartments, a convention centre, an international school and six-high-rise apartment buildings accommodating 1,064 units.
The Southeast Asian nation in March broke ground on the country's first skyscraper, a 42-storey tower.
Cambodia has climbed back from decades of civil unrest to emerge as one of the region's most vibrant economies, marked by an unprecedented building boom that is radically changing the face of this once-sleepy capital.

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