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Asean experts call for more relief boats

Posted by arnon_k On October - 20 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Boats are the most-needed items in the flood relief effort, says a team of Asean experts.

The team has spent the past three days touring flood-hit areas and observing relief operations.

They say the speed with which the boats are delivered will be a key to managing the crisis.

The eight-member Emergency Rapid Assessment Team (Erat) led by Singaporean David Chow said they recommended the Asean bloc supplies 500 boats, among other items.

The observation tour included a trip to Suphan Buri and Pathum Thani as well as the Don Mueang-based flood relief operations centre.

“Medical supplies, water purifiers, food, mobile toilets and sleeping pads are needed, but boats are the most important to move people around and for search and rescue operations,” said Mr Chow.

Formed as a response to Cyclone Nargis in Burma in 2008 because the junta did not allow the United Nations to assess the damage, Erat has worked in Burma twice and in Indonesia’s Mentawai Island after it was hit by a tsunami this year. The Thai flood crisis is their fourth operation.

Arun Pinta, a planning and policy analyst on the team, said it is trying to develop guidelines and procedures for its work in Asean countries.

It was up to the host country whether it decided to follow the team’s recommendations.

“We are here to support the government and whether or how our recommendations are executed depends largely on how Asean members respond to our reports,” he said.

The team’s report would try to be precise, down to the specification of the boats needed.

“The supplies do not necessarily have to come from Asean countries,” he said.

Surapong will listen to criticism

Posted by arnon_k On August - 10 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Newly appointed Foreign Minister Surapong Towijakchaikul on Wednesday admitted he is new to the job but said he will perform his duty to the best of his ability.

He said he was ready to listen to criticism and advice, especially from ministry officials, and learn from it.

Mr Surapong said his priorities were improve international relations, be prepared for Asean and Apec meetings, rebuild the country’s image and create confidence in Thailand among the international community to encourage tourism.

Particular importance would be attached to relations with countries in the Middle East, he said.

Asked about the possibility of re-issuing passports for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Mr Surapong said he would first see how they had been issued and then revoked.

Mr Surapong was earlier tipped for the post of information and communication technology minister, but was switched to the foreign affairs portfolio – reportedly because Thaksin could not find an outsider for the post.

The new foreign minister is known to be regarded highly by Thaksin who, having been convicted of absuing his authority while prime minister, has been denied entry by many countries.

Abhisit rules out talks with Hun Sen at Asean

Posted by arnon_k On May - 5 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Thailand to query the word ‘vicinity’ at ICJ
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva indicated yesterday he had no intention of holding talks on the border clashes with Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Asean Summit in Indonesia.

Don’t forget that I met Hun Sen four times late last year, and then in February clashes erupted,” Mr Abhisit said.

“And I insist that each clash is not an accident. It is an intention to internationalise the issue.”

The clashes are part of Cambodia’s strategy in dealing with territorial disputes, according to the premier.

He also doubted Cambodia’s claim that the fighting continued because in part it could not control its troops.

Mr Abhisit said Thailand was making preparations to face Cambodia at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which has asked Thailand and Cambodia to give statements on May 30-31.

Cambodia has asked the court to interpret its 1962 verdict on the Preah Vihear temple and issue an urgent ruling, including an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Thai troops from the land surrounding the temple and a ban on Thai military activity in the area.

In the 1962 verdict, the court said: “Thailand is under an obligation to withdraw any military or police forces, or other guards or keepers, stationed by her at the temple, or in its vicinity on Cambodian territory.”

Cambodia wants the ICJ to interpret the term “vicinity” mentioned in the ruling.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said the Thai team to the ICJ will be led by Thai ambassador to the Hague, Virachai Plasai.

It will comprise three lawyers from France, Canada and Australia, chief of Treaties and Legal Affairs Department Ittiporn Boonpracong, and legal officials who will act as secretaries.

“The special legal committee will go to the Hague a few days before the court hearing to meet the three foreign advisers and prepare a statement for Mr Virachai to deliver to the court.

“They will have only three or four hours to clarify the Cambodian complaints with the 15 ICJ committees,” Mr Kasit said.

After the hearing, Bangkok and Phnom Penh will have at least four or five months to send written statements to the ICJ.

“We think the court will make a decision after the New Year as at least five of 15 ICJ committees’ terms will end and there will be changes in their members,” Mr Kasit said.

Meanwhile, the House committee on foreign affairs yesterday voiced an objection to the government’s plan to face Cambodia in the ICJ.

Pheu Thai MP Torpong Chaiyasarn, head of the committee, said the government should instead opt for negotiations to resolve the dispute or let a new administration handle the issue.

Mr Kasit hit back at Mr Torpong for making the suggestion.

“The suggestion is misleading because the public may think the government has done something wrong, and, therefore, has to go to the ICJ. The committee should not talk about this issue to the media directly.

“If it has any questions, it should ask the government for clarifications first,” Mr Kasit said.

In a statement issued today, the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Office of the Council of Ministers accused Thailand of threatening peace and stability in the region with its war-like stance, and damaging Preah Vihear.

“For that reason, all neighbouring countries together with the international community should make joint efforts to put an end to this dangerous policy so that we can enjoy a lasting peace and stability in Southeast Asia,” it said.

“Thai leaders should know that the world of the 21st century needs a new vision, a vision of peace rooted in justice, a vision of a world bound together in intentional community dedicated to the well-being of all people.

“Peace rooted in justice requires the nurturing of a culture of peace in homes, communities, nations and across the world,” the statement said.

Asean optimism on Thai-Cambodian row

Posted by arnon_k On May - 3 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Indonesia has remained positive that Thailand and Cambodia would resume its dialogue, either by themselves or with its presence, said its foreign minister at the sidelines of the Asean Civil Society Conference and the Asean People’s Forum.

The Asean chairman, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, told Bangkok Post that he has been having good communications with both Thai and Cambodian sides.

Mr Marty has faced recent embarrassment as the Indonesia-brokered border meeting between the two conflicting parties due to the Thai cancellation to show up at the General Border Committee and strong opposition to the term of reference for the deployment of Indonesian observers to the disputed areas.

“I’m not pessimistic about the conclusion of the TOR (despite the military pull-out) as I’ve tried to deal with the Thai government,” said the Indonesian foreign minister.

Asked if he believed there were unified voices among the Thai officials, he smiled and responded that the Thai media should know more than him.

Mr Marty said he looked forward to taking advantage of the Asean summit to have communications with the Thai and Cambodian counterparts.

“There’ll be a possibility for the two sides’ meeting but whether they need a trilateral among us (still unknown),” he said.

Diplomatic sources noted that the high global status of Indonesia has been recently tested as the U.S. has been publicly backing up India’s role in global peace-building and security-making, the area where Indonesia has been pitching itself globally.

The stalled Jakarta-chaired Thai-Cambodian dialogue has caused further blow to Indonesia stature, “Indonesia has succeeded initially in getting Asean face into the supportive efforts to resolve bilateral conflicts in February and alter on in hosting the Thai-Cambodian joint boundary committee,” diplomatic sources said.

However, Cambodia’s last week move to petition to the UN Security Council and to the International Court of Justice to intervene on the bilateral conflict has bypassed and undermined further role of Asean, and particularly Indonesia, in this protracted border conflicts, sources said.

Diplomats predicted that foreign ministers of the two sides would rather talk while Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen might want to meet the future leader after the forthcoming election.

Meanwhile Ngin Saorath, executive director, Cambodian Disabled Peoples’ Organisation, said it was disappointment that border clashes still continued onto its second week.

“I grew up during the Pol Pot regime, We were fed up with wars, there should be no further war, either internally or with neighbours,” said the 40-year-old disabled Saorath, a native of Ta Kaew province.

However, he did not believe the Thai border conflicts would give an edge to the Hun Sen administration, “After all, Prime Minister Hun Sen has already in power for a long uninterrupted period. He has already a good grip of power, so no need to wage war to strengthen his status,” said Mr Saorath.

He said whenever the border erupted, it was the people alongside the border in sufferings, “The governments should think more about how to free people from hunger and from want,” said the Phnom Penh-based activist.