Thaksin Shinawatra in Cambodia – Sunday, 15.11.2009

Posted on 18 November 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 638 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 637

Several mails I had received during the week requested what this week’s editorial should be about. Agreed. The visit of Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra to Cambodia has more than any other recent event received wide international attention – at the same time it resulted in bringing a range of different and opposing issues to the surface, beyond the straightforward political tensions.

The disparities start with the wording, how the visitor is called in national and international media: the possibilities extend from the fond description of Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra as an “eternal friend” by Prime Minister Hun Sen, to the more neutral description when referring to the “former Thai prime minister ousted by a military coup,” to the references – and this not only in part of the Thai press – to the “convicted fugitive, because of corruption, and who finally violated the bail requirements and fled the country to avoid going to prison.”

This is the first controversy.

The Cambodian government did not only refuse to live up to the Cambodian-Thai extradition agreement, “considering the prosecution and legal process against Thaksin Shinawatra as a politically motivated proceeding,” and therefore even handed back the Thai documents submitted to seek Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra’s extradition. On the other hand, the Thai government and part of the Thai media felt that already that extending an invitation and offering the function to be an adviser to the Cambodian government were an insult to the legal system of Thailand.

As a public reaction in Thailand, the popularity of the Thai Prime Minister, Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva, almost tripled, with appruval rates of 24% in September to 69% recently, according to a poll.

The interpretation of Prime Minister Hun Sen, that the present Cambodian-Thai dispute is basically a personal dispute between the two prime ministers, was not shared in the international press. More fundamental problems were touched upon: What does it mean for the international standing of a country when a search warrant by Interpol can be dismissed, after the fugitive, who is being sought under a “red alert” warrant, after a bail violation, and after a criminal conviction for corruption in dealing with the sale of valuable public property to a family member, up to the grotesque $60,000 event of the mysteriously mistaken box of chocolate.

How would such events be dealt with under a Cambodian anti-corruption law, due to be adopted by the National Assembly since a decade ago? If actions of corruption are committed in combination with political ones, are they then no longer subject to criminal prosecution?

There were several rumors and denials – that Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra would fly together with the Cambodian Prime Minister to the APEC meetings in Singapore.

Surprising also, that the Cambodian Prime Minister compared him to Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar. In an interview with Times Online, Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra said: “There are some similarities there, but not really everything. The similarity is we won elections, we rule the countries. We’ve been ousted by the coup d’etat and we come from the people. We are democratically elected leaders and we come from the majority of the people – a big majority, not just a small majority. She’s under house arrest, I’ve been kicked out of the country.”

The Cambodian government has never found such strong critical words against the ruling military in Myanmar. Will the Cambodian government also accept such advice and change its position? The statement “I’ve been kicked out of the country” contrasts with the fact that the self imposed exile abroad started with breaking bail arrangements with the Thai law enforcement authorities, traveling abroad without the promised return.

But the invitation to Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra as economic adviser may lead to a second kind of controversies.

Press reports in Cambodia were not enthusiastic about his speech in front of 300 selected economists. The Cambodian Daily said that his address “primarily dealt in generalities and contained little that Cambodian economists will not already know.” Not only that: Some of his advice runs contrary to some of the traditional approaches of Cambodian economic practice.

Thakshin Sinawatra became the favorite politician among a majority of the rural population in Thailand because of his new policy of favoring them directly, with debt relief and village loan funds administered by the local communities themselves. The revenue of the public and the private sector should, first of all, be directed towards the poorest sector of society, is his advice. Large scale land leasings to big companies in favorable relation with the government, leading to considerable groups of the rural population losing their land, coming to demonstrate in Phnom Penh, asking for justice, as happens so frequently in Cambodia, are not compatible which the vision of Thaksin Shinawatra’s economic policies.

Surprising is also his emphasis on the need of reconciliation and good neighborliness between Cambodia and Thailand, in order to foster Cambodia’s economic development, including the promotion of Thailand and Cambodia together for international tourism, presenting themselves as a “joint destination.” This runs against many recent antagonistic trends: the Thai government had proposed to submit Preah Vihear together with the Cambodian government to the World Heritage Committee, which was flatly rejected by the Cambodian side. During the last year there were even plans discussed in Cambodia to create an international airport 500 meters below the mountain range where Preah Vihear is situated, which is conveniently accessible from the north, from Thailand. This plan, to exclude the natural access to Preah Vihear – and therefore tourism via Thailand, was soon given up again as economically completely unreal. The public outcry some years ago, when Bangkok Airways had named one of its airplanes Angkor Wat – while other planes are named according to other international destinations, promoting tourism to these places – has no place in this context. The Cambodian Daily reported his emphasis on the need for cooperation between Thailand and Cambodia, as the two countries’ economic fortunes are inextricably linked – adding: “Of course, not all my compatriots see it that way right now.” Those who see it differently in Thailand are assumed to suffer from being shortsighted, driven by false patriotism.

One may ask whether the anti-Thai actions of 2003, when the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh was ransacked because of a baseless rumor, resulting in further arson so that the hardware damage alone of that night was estimated at US$56 million, and the tensions before and after the designation of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site, would also fall under a similar verdict by Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra, that a false patriotism is in the way also in some of the Cambodian attitudes and actions.

It is surprising to consider how future suggestions of the new economic adviser of the Cambodian government will be handled, while land conflicts in rural areas continue, further large scale leasings of land are under consideration inviting countries from the Middle East to start agro-business ventures, and Japanese companies are considering to create new large tree planting schemes in Cambodia.

Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra’s suggestions may not only be unwelcome in his own country. They run counter to major trends of present day Cambodian big business.

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Saturday, 26.7.2008: Domestic Violence Still Increasing

Posted on 26 July 2008. Filed under: week 570 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 570

“Phnom Penh: Domestic violence remains a major issue in Khmer society – prevention and solutions are need immediately. Domestic violence becomes more cruel, serious, and alarming, especially during the first six months of 2008 this happened; and this trend has increased continually form year to year.

“Officials of different organizations working on domestic violence reported to Khmer Sthapana on 24 July 2008 that, during the period of the first six months of 2008, domestic violence increased alarmingly, and it is believed to be result of a decline of social morality, of inefficient education, and of the poor implementation of regulations.

“Recently, a son killed his father by using a sickle to cut his throat on 22 July 2008 in Khvet Thom, Prey Chhor, Kompong Cham. In another case, in Koh Roka Village, Koh Roka Commune, Peam Chor, Prey Veng, on 22 July 2008, a husband cut his wife’s throat with a cleaver making her bleeding all over the body because of an argument etc…

“According to a report by the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association – ADHOC- domestic violence increased in 2007. In 2006, the organization received 532 case reports, but in 2007, there were 632 cases which led to 29 deaths. This increase is a signal of inefficient law enforcement, aiming at the prevention and the protection of victims from domestic violence.

“In 2007, there were 603 cases of domestic violence that led to injuries. Such violence causing injuries resulted from drunkenness, jealousy, from asserting power as the head of the family, having extra-marital relations, gambling, poverty, and the lack of education, sexual violence, etc…

“Looking at activities which lead to violence, offenders always find reasons to create arguments – after returning home from going to places of entertainment, or when they cannot get the money they ask for; they may start to destroy everything in their house, or use insults and rude words. After that, they hit the victims with sticks, sickles, cleavers, axes, or hoes, or by kicking. Sometimes, violence leads to disability or to death of their victims.

“This report continued to explain that because of strict traditions, some victims bear to live with offenders for years without any intervention by local authorities which might have led to solutions, until they lose their lives. Obviously, in 2007, deaths by domestic violence still increased, and this was not different from 2006.

“There were deaths because victims had been suffered many injuries. They had informed the local authorities to help to solve problems, but they get no response, because the authorities still consider domestic violence to be a domestic problem of a family, and they think they should not interfere to solve such problems.

“Also, it is often seen that the authorities are slow to intervene in domestic violence, and the keep things unattended unless somebody is injured or a victim is already dead before they go to investigate. This shows that regulations to stop domestic violence and to protect victims are not implemented efficiently.

“The authorities seem not to known the regulations that allow them to intervene and to prevent arguments in time at the initial stage, in order to avoid an escalation to domestic violence.

“It should be stressed that laws to stop domestic violence and to protect victims were approved by the National Assembly, and put into force on 24 October 2005. Though those laws became valid, they seem to be inefficient and not enforced at all, even though these laws allow the authorities, officials of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and neighbors of a victim to intervene at a site of dispute, to prevent domestic violence without asking for a warrant from the courts, and the authorities closest by have the duty to intervene immediately in cases of domestic violence happening to start, in order to protect the victim. The authorities do not use these laws to solve domestic violence. Generally, institutions involved use the new criminal procedures to deal with domestic violence, which is against Article 8 of the new code of criminal procedures.” Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #59, 26.7.2008

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 26 July 2008


Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1703, 26.7.2008

  • Cambodia Needs Vietnam and Indonesia to Help Solve the Cambodia-Siam Dispute [according to Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong on 25 July 2008]
  • After a Protest, the Chhang Leang [garment] Factory Allowed Workers Free Time to Go Voting
  • The Number of Victims by Landmines and Unexploded Ordnance Declined to 170 Persons in Six Months [40 persons less than in the same period in 2007]
  • Malaria Declined by 50% Early This Year [compared to 2007, 15,500 people had malaria, and 46 people died]
  • A Thai Pro-Government Group Attacked an Anti-Government Group, Injuring 20 People [according to Associated Press on 25 July 2008]


Khmer Amatak, Vol.9, #5, 26-27.7.2008

  • [Prime Minister] Hun Sen Is Showing Nationalism [regarding the Preah Vihear Temple Issue] to Attract Voters


Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #59, 26.7.2008

  • Domestic Violence Still Increasing
  • Hor Namhong Hopes that Foreign Affairs Ministerial Meeting [with Thailand] Will Come to Solutions


Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6407, 26-27.7.2008

  • Civil Society Organizations that Observe the Election Process Declared that Election Campaigning This Year Was Better than Before [25 July 2008]
  • China Cracked Down a Terrorist Group [in Shanghai] That Had Planned to Attack the Olympic Events [24 July 2008]


Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3522, 26.7.2008

  • Police Just Drew a Sketch of the Faces of the Criminals Who Shot Dead Mr. Khim Sambo, a Moneaksekar Khmer Journalist and His Son [age 21]
  • The Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia Criticized the Lack of Neutrality, because the Armed Forces Participated to Support the Ruling Party [said Mr. Hang Puthea, Executive Director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia; when observers appeared near locations where there was a distributions of gifts and money to voters, the observers always saw also police, causing concern]


Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4651, 26.7.2008

  • Election Campaign Finished without Violence
  • Police Found 6-Year-Old Swedish Girl Abducted [by her father] to Cambodia [in Pursat]

Click here – and have a look at the last editorial – The Cambodian-Thai border crisis develops while the Khmer public is not aware what the Cambodian government representatives had agreed upon, to get the Preah Vihear Temple listed as a World Heritage Site, on a most narrowly defined piece of land.

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