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CAMBODIA will not allow any Thai politicians who face arrest warrants in Thailand to shelter on its territory – and it has laws against such moves, Cambodian deputy premier and defence minister General Tea Banh said yesterday.

Cambodia has no policy to allow anyone to use its land to operate against Thailand or other countries,” he insisted.

Tea Banh was speaking after completing a two-day official visit to the Kingdom, the first since the Thai military junta seized power in late May.

He met with National Council for Peace and Order chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha, during which Prayuth informed him of the NCPO’s work, which was focused on solving political problems so that the country could move towards “perfect democracy”.

The junta chief also thanked Cambodia for freeing via a royal amnesty Veera Somkwamkit, a Thai activist jailed in Phnom Penh for espionage. He said the NCPO was also moving to develop border areas for the benefit of both countries.

Tea Banh, meanwhile, said Cambodia understood the need for the junta to step in to solve the country’s problems.

Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihamoni, Prime Minister Hun Sen and other officials support the Thai military leaders, he said, adding that the country was therefore ready to work with the junta as its neighbour steps towards the AseanEconomic Community, which comes into at the end of 2015.

A Thai source said the Thai side had asked Phnom Penh not to allow Thai politicians who fled the Kingdom when the junta seized power to use Cambodia as a shelter.

They include Jakrapob Penkair and Charupong Ruangsuwan, whose passports have already been revoked. However, it was reported that they had alternative passports issued by other countries.

Improved relations

Meanwhile, Cambodia’s deputy army chief, Lt-General Hun Manet, said Hun Sen had expressed concern over Thailand’s situation and wished that the country could move forward and the ruling junta could solve the problems it faced.

Hun Manet, who is a son of the prime minister, accompanied Tea Banh on his official visit to Thailand. He is also commander of Hun Sen’s security unit. The visit is regarded as a reflection of improved bilateral relations following the conflict over Preah Vihear temple, after Cambodia took a case against Thailand to the International Court of Justice.

During Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government, Hun Sen strongly criticised Thailand and appointed fugitive ex-premier ThaksinShinawatra as an adviser. Tea Banh’s entourage comprised high-ranking officials in the Cambodian armed forces.

Bilateral relations will have improved following Phnom Penh’s agreement to free Veera, a known activist against Cambodia over the Preah Vihear controversy.

A senior Thai Army official said Tea Banh’s visit had been arranged following the return of a huge number of Cambodian workers who fled home from Thailand following rumours that the junta would launch a severe crackdown against them.

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy had used the incident to criticise Hun Sen in order to gain more support. Phnom Penh therefore wished to discuss the issue with the Thai side to make sure that it would not come up again, the military official said.

‘No backroom deals’ in Veera release

Posted by pakin On July - 3 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

The release of Veera Somkhwamkid, who was imprisoned in Cambodia for more than three years for espionage, was unconditional and Phnom Penh had not sought any favours in return, the Foreign Affairs Ministry insists.

Permanent secretary for foreign affairs Sihasak Phuangketkeow said the release was not made in response to Cambodia’s request for the release of 14 migrant workers being held in Thailand on visa fraud charges.

“Cambodia has not asked for any favours,” Mr Sihasak said, adding that Thailand appreciated Veera’s release since it reflected “goodwill from Cambodia”.

He said he had discussed several issues with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong during his visit to Phnom Penh earlier this week.

A request by military junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha for Veera’s release was among those topics.

“Marking the first anniversary of the cremation of Cambodia’s late King Norodom Sihanouk, a royal pardon was granted to Veera,” Mr Sihasak said. “On behalf of the Thai government and the NCPO, I appreciate the Cambodian decision and am grateful for it.”

Earlier yesterday, acting permanent secretary for justice Charnchao Chaiyanukit said Thailand and Cambodia have signed a prisoner transfer agreement. The case of the 14 detained Cambodians would be covered by this agreement.

The Thai embassy in Phnom Penh would have to forward Cambodia’s request for the inmates’ release to the Foreign Ministry, which would then send it on to the Justice Ministry. The 14 would be freed once the Corrections Department received the list, Mr Charnchao said.

However, Corrections Department deputy director-general Kobkiat Kasiwiwat said an initial check showed that only 13 Cambodians have been detained in Sa Kaeo province for using fake visas.

Authorities have been instructed to verify the number and send the names of the detainees to Cambodia for double-checking.

“Cambodian migrant workers play an important role in the Thai economy, so we have to take good care of them the same way we treat Thai labourers,” Mr Sihasak said.

He said he also discussed the Preah Vihear temple issue with Hun Sen and Hor Namhong during the visit. Both countries reaffirmed their compliance with last year’s International Court of Justice ruling, which handed a large part of the temple land to Cambodia.

Chulalongkorn University political science professor Chaiwat Khamchu said he believed Cambodia released Veera because it did not want to be shown as hostile toward the junta.

Veera’s release should pave the way for the two countries to cooperate more closely on labour issues, he added.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies, said the coup has actually improved Thai-Cambodian relations.

The Cambodian premier has gone out of his way not to antagonise the NCPO, in contrast with his actions against the government led by former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

“The bottom line is that Hun Sen cannot afford to incur the wrath of the Thai army after the coup, when the generals now have absolute power and a bad history vis-a-vis the Hun Sen regime,” Mr Thitinan said.

Veera returned to Thailand yesterday with a Thai delegation led by Mr Sihasak.

“I will continue to monitor corruption,” Veera said on his arrival at Suvarnabhumi airport.

“I forgive those who harmed me. We still have a lot of work to do.”

From the airport, Veera was taken by immigration police to the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) to hear eight charges police have lodged against him in connection with the seizure of Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports in 2008 by the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

Pol Lt Col Somkiat Tantikanokporn, a CSD investigator, said investigators did not bring a charge of terrorism in connection with the airport seizures against Veera because public prosecutors previously dropped the charge against him.

After hearing the charges, Veera was released on a 100,000-baht bail bond. Veera was ordered to report to police for further questioning next Wednesday, deputy national police chief Pol Gen Somyos Phumphanmuang said.

A military source said Gen Prayuth used his long-standing ties with Cambodian military leaders to help secure Veera’s release.

The source said that after the May 22 coup, Veera’s wife, Pis-umphai, had sent a letter seeking help from Gen Prayuth. The source said the coup leader then ordered state officials to find ways to secure Veera’s release.

Gen Surawat Butrwong, chief of the army’s Neighbouring Countries Coordination Centre, had played a key role in the quick release of Veera, the source said. Gen Surawat has close ties with Cambodian military leaders and Hun Sen.

NCPO spokeswoman Sirichan Nathong said Gen Prayuth welcomed Veera’s release.

One-stop-centre to end trade in illegal labour

Posted by pakin On June - 30 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

SAMUT SAKHON – A new centre to end the abuse of illegal workers by properly regulating migrant labour opened on Monday in Samut Sakhon as the first step to end human trafficking in the country

Businesses in Samut Sakhon rely on a huge migant workforce, much of it illegal.

The new, full-time centre in Muang district provides a one-stop service for migrant workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia staying illegally in the province to come out in the open and register legally with the authorities.

It is located at the provincial social security office in Muang district, and open from 8.30am to 4.30pm everyday.

It can handle 2,000 migrants a day, officials said, and 1,000 illegal workers already lined up for registration when the doors opened this morning.

The launch was witnessed by Gen Sirichai Disthakul, the army chief-of-staff in charge of labour issues and human trafficking, permanent secretary for labour Jirasak Sukhonthachat and Myanmar ambassador   Tin Win.

Samut Sakhon has an estimated 80,000 illegal labourers from the three countries, according to Labour Ministry figures last year. The province relies on foreign workforce to drive its lucrative fishery industry.

Under the plan outlined out by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), illegal workers will be given temporary permits to work in Thailand. Their names will be sent for verification in 60 days, and workers passing the procedure can apply for permanent work permits by using their passport, Mr Jirasak said.

NCPO chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Friday that one-stop centres will be opened in another 22 coastal provinces in need of migrant workers on July 7, and in the rest in the country by July 15.

The move is part of the military regime’s plans to end the activities of human traffickers,  including corrupt government officials, who extort money from people in the three neighbouring countries in exchange for smuggling them into Thailand and delivering them to places where they have been promised jobs.

The Myanmar envoy supported the plan and said the new centre will make it easier for people in Myanmar to land needed work in Thailand.

However, some business operators remained sceptical, saying migrant abuse would not end until Thailand fully liberalises the labour market.

Thailand and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will open up the labour sector after the launch of the Asean Economic Community  at the end of 2015, but the free flow of workers will be limited to skilled and professional labourers.

The junta opened temporary coordination centres on the border in Sa Kaeo, Trat and Chanthaburi provinces on Thursday to facilitate the return of about 200,000 Cambodians who fled in fear of rumours of a crack down by the junta.

Another tempoarary centre at the Chong Jom border crossing with Cambodia  in Kap Choeng district of Surin province was officially opened on Monday. These coordination centres will close after the provinces set up one-stop service centres.

According to the ministry, Thailand has about 2.2 million legal migrant workers. The Thailand Development Research Institute said there another 900,00 illegal workers in the country before the exodus.

Cambodian workers who last week fled Thailand en masse have begun trickling back into the country as concerns over a harsh military crackdown are easing, officials say.

Col Phichit Meekhunsut, commander of a special task force unit under the 12th Military Ranger Regiment, yesterday visited a border checkpoint in Sa Kaeo’s Aranyaprathet district, which was set up by soldiers, police and customs officers to check on Cambodian migrants returning to the country.

More than 100 Cambodians entered the country yesterday through the Aranyaprathet border from the Cambodian town of Poipet, he said.

Col Phichit said he had instructed Aranyaprathet immigration officers to assist the returning workers.

Speaking after crossing the border yesterday, Oam Sarei, 28, said he left Thailand 10 days ago for fear of being arrested by Thai troops following rumours of a looming crackdown.

After arriving home, he said he had heard the assurances made by Thai troops and Cambodian authorities that there would be no crackdown, so he decided to come back.

He said he was issued with a temporary border pass which limits his stay in the country to seven days, during which time he will need to apply for migrant worker status with the Labour Ministry.

Oam said he believed many more Cambodians would return to Thailand.

Meanwhile, the number of Cambodians leaving Thailand via the Aranyaprathet border pass continued to thin yesterday. Tens of thousands of Cambodian nationals have crossed through the checkpoint in the past 10 days. Soldiers and state officials visited the Rong Kluea border market to ramp up a campaign to allay fears of a labour crackdown.

In Surin, 316 Cambodian workers travelled back to their country through the Chong Jom-Osamed border checkpoint in Kap Choeng district on Thursday, a sharp decrease from the thousands who fled earlier in the week.

Cambodian troops reportedly provided 30 lorries to transport them home.

Thai officials, meanwhile, set up makeshift tents near the border in Kap Choeng to proceed with the documentation process for workers returning to work in Thailand