Editorial | Articles about Cambodia | Khmer

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

CNN: Claimed by two nations 1:33



Claimed by two nations 1:33 CNN's Dan Rivers takes us on a journey along the front line in the border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thai, Cambodia armies to Meet After Border Battle

Thai, Cambodia armies to Meet After Border Battle


Cambodian soldiers sit in a truck at Sraem village, Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 16, 2008. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (More Photos)

Cambodian villagers, seen, leaving Anlong Veng, Cambodia, near the Thai border, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008. A tense border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia erupted into a gunbattle that killed two soldiers Wednesday, but officials from both sides downplayed the violence and called for resolving the conflict through talks, not bullets. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Wern Champasak (C), Thailand's chief of border communication, sits with a Cambodian soldier after surrendering at Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda near the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh October 15, 2008. Cambodia's army captured 10 Thai soldiers on Wednesday after a battle along a disputed stretch of border near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian soldiers sit on an armored vehicle at Sraem village in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh, October 16, 2008. Thai and Cambodian troops fired rockets and small arms at each other on a disputed stretch of border on Wednesday, killing two Cambodians and prompting Bangkok to tell its citizens to return home. Both sides accused each other of firing first in the clash, which comes amid huge political instability in Bangkok, with protesters in a long-running street campaign urging the army to launch a coup against the elected government.
REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)



By Chor Sokunthea

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (Reuters) - Thai and Cambodian military commanders prepared for talks across their disputed border on Thursday after the most serious clash in years left two Cambodian soldiers dead and 10 Thais in Cambodian hands.

Despite Wednesday's 40-minute exchange of rocket and gun fire, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said a scheduled meeting to resolve arguments over the jungle frontier would go ahead, suggesting escalation was not inevitable.

"It is a good sign that we can start to solve this conflict," he told reporters in Phnom Penh after an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen about the fighting near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple.

"We consider this an incident between soldiers and not an invasion by Thailand," Hor Namhong said.

The talks were due to begin at 11 a.m. at a location near the disputed temple, known to Thais as Khao Phra Viharn.

Thai regional army commander Wiboonsak Neeparn told Reuters the meeting would focus on the cause of Wednesday's clash and how to ratchet down tensions on the border, where both sides have rushed reinforcements.

There has been no word on the exchange of 10 Thai prisoners, whose existence Bangkok is officially denying.

Hor Namhong said the group, who were photographed by a Reuters photographer under Cambodian guard, would be properly treated and returned to Thailand if Bangkok requested.

Bangkok has urged its citizens to leave Cambodia, mindful of the 2003 torching of its embassy and Thai businesses in Phnom Penh by a nationalist mob incensed by a row over Angkor Wat, another ancient temple.

"Thai businessmen who have no need to be in Cambodia now, please rush back to Thailand," Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat told reporters, adding that the military had an evacuation plan ready if needed.

In 2003, Thai commandos flew into Phnom Penh airport in the middle of the night to help evacuate 600 Thais during the riots.

Security was beefed up outside the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, with 20 military police armed with assault rifles standing guard.

Both sides accused each other of firing first in the clash, which comes amid huge political instability in Bangkok, with protesters in a long-running street campaign urging the army to launch a coup against the elected government.

"The Thai military are very much under pressure to protect the national sovereignty and territory," Panitan Wattanayagorn, a military analyst at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University said.

(Additional reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan in Kantaralak)
(Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Valerie Lee)

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Development & Analysis:

by Cambodian Information Center

Thais Attacked at 3 Different Places (Phnom Trap - 1,600 meters from the border, Pagoda Keo Sikha Kiri Svara- 700 meters from the border, & the Veal Intry area - 1,120 meters from the border) Deep Inside the Cambodian Territory. Two-hour gunfire started 2:15 p.m. local time. 2 Cambodian soldiers were killed & 2 others injured. 6 Thai soldiers were injured & 10 others captured
  • 300,000 Thai troops equipped by the United States
  • Royal Cambodian Armed Forces are experienced former fighters of the Khmer Rouge
  • Both sides were facing off about 100 metres apart
  • Wen - Oct. 15, 08 - Second Clash: Thais Attacked at 3 Different Places: Two-hour gunfire started 2:15 p.m. local time. 2 Cambodian soldiers killed & 2 others injured. 4 Thai soldiers injured & 10 others captured
  • Tues - Oct. 14, 08 - Thailand's Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat meeting with military leaders and moving additional troops and weapons closer to a disputed border area.
  • Mon - Oct. 13, 08 - PM Hun Sen Set Tuesday @ 12:00 a.m. (0500 GMT) as the ultimate time for over 80 Thai troops to withdraw from the Veal Intry area after ending his meeting with visiting Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat in Phnom Penh
  • Fri - Oct. 10, 08 - The official visit of Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat to Cambodia has been canceled
  • Mon - Oct. 6, 08 - 2 Thai soldiers were injured after stepping on a landmine
  • Fri - Oct. 3, 08 - First Clash by Angry Finger-Pointing: Two Thai soldiers and one Cambodian soldier were injured
  • July 22, 2008 - Thai troops with artilleries and tanks building up along the border
  • July 15, 2008 - The Thai military build-up began, when Cambodian guards briefly detained three Thais who crossed into the area and refused to leave
  • July, 8 2008, the UNESCO recognized Prasat Preah Vihear to the World Heritage
  • 1979 - Thai soldiers forced Cambodian refugees across a minefield along Dangrek Mountains. Hundreds were shot or blown to pieces
  • June 15, 1962, Hague Internaional Court of Justice rulled that Preah Vihear Temple lay in Cambodia territory

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Thais Attacked at 3 Different Places


A Cambodian commander talks on a two-way radio after fighting broke out with Thai soldiers near Preah Vihear temple. Thailand and Cambodia exchanged fire in a clash over disputed land which left two soldiers dead and several wounded. (AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)
A Cambodian solider crouches in a trench during fighting near Eagle field near the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh October 15, 2008. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea
A Cambodian soldier examines the body of a colleague who was killed near Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, some 543 kilometers north of Phnom Penh on October 15, 2008. (AFP)
A Cambodian soldier (L) sits next to surrendered Thai troops at Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda near the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh October 15, 2008. Cambodia's army captured 10 Thai soldiers on Wednesday after a battle along a disputed stretch of border near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea
Thai troops sit after surrendering at Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda near the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh October 15, 2008. Cambodia's army captured 10 Thai soldiers on Wednesday after a battle along a disputed stretch of border near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

A Cambodian solider looks at Thai weapons after fighting at Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda near the disputed 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, 543 km (337 miles) north of Phnom Penh October 15, 2008. Thai and Cambodian troops fired rockets and small arms at each other on a disputed stretch of border on Wednesday, killing two Cambodians and prompting Bangkok to tell its citizens to return home. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

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BREAKING NEWS: Fighting erupts in border dispute

Fighting Erupts in Border Dispute

(AP): A gunfight has broken out between Thai and Cambodian troops at a disputed border zone, escalating a conflict that officials from both sides fear could result in a war between the neighbours.

"Fighting is going on," said Major Prum Saroeun, a Cambodian police official. "Soldiers in the field say that Thai troops fired first and our troops fired back."

Thailand's army spokesman Sansern Kaewkumnerd said Cambodian troops fired the first shot.

"Fighting is ongoing at the border and we are currently getting more details," he said. "As far as we know, the Cambodians fired at the Thai troops first."

It was not immediately clear how many troops were engaged in the gunbattle and if there were any fatalities.

The clash came a day after Cambodia's prime minister issued an ultimatum to Thailand to pull back its soldiers from disputed territory near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

Thailand's foreign minister Sompong Amornvivat has urged Thais to leave Cambodia as soon as possible.

Thailand put jet fighters on alert at air force bases nationwide and C-130 transport planes on standby at a base in the capital, Bangkok, to evacuate Thais living in the border area "if the tension escalates to a military confrontation," Thai air force official Group Captain Montol Satchukorn said.

"Our forces are on alert and ready to support the army's possible operations on the border," he said.

"These are just precautionary measures. It's not that we are going to war."

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BREAKING NEWS: Thai and Cambodia Troops Exchange Border Gunfire

Thai and Cambodia Troops Exchange Border Gunfire

Wed 15 Oct 2008, 7:59 GMT

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia (Reuters) - Thailand urged its nationals to leave Cambodia on Wednesday after troops from both countries exchanged gunfire when a long-simmering border dispute turned violent.

Each side accused the other of firing first at a stretch of the border near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple that both sides claim.

The International Court of Justice awarded the 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) patch of scrub to Cambodia in 1962, a ruling that has rankled in Thailand ever since.

The issue has become highly politicised again in Thailand, with opposition protesters who for months have laid siege to the government adopting it as one of their causes.

Tensions have been high since July, when 2,000 soldiers faced off only yards apart in trenches dug into a hillside that until 10 years ago was under the control of remnants of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot's guerrilla army.

On Monday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to turn the area into a "death zone" unless the Thais withdrew troops by midday Tuesday.

A Reuters photographer at the scene said he had to take cover amid rocket and small-arms fire when fighting erupted on Wednesday.

"I heard gunfire all over the place," Chor Sokunthea said by telephone. "One rocket flew from Thailand over my head and landed. I have to find a safe place to hide."

There was no immediate word on casualties.

The Thai military said it was ready for war and the Foreign Ministry told Thais to "think twice" before visiting Cambodia, only five years after a nationalist mob torched the embassy in Phnom Penh in an argument about another ancient Hindu temple.

"Thai businessmen who have no need to be in Cambodia now, please rush back to Thailand," Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat told reporters on Wednesday.

"We have our evacuation plan ready," he added.

The Thai stock market dropped 2.2 in the immediate aftermath of news of Wednesday's firing, but it was not immediately clear if it was a direct consequence.

Singapore and Indonesia have asked both sides to show restraint.

(Writing by David Fox; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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U.S. Forces Nine Major Banks To Accept Partial Nationalization


President Bush, right, smiles during the G20 ministerial meeting at the International Monetary Fund Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008 in Washington. From left, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and Bush. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (Evan Vucci - AP)

U.S. Forces Nine Major Banks To Accept Partial Nationalization

Dow Soars 11 Percent; Biggest Point Gain Ever

By David Cho, Neil Irwin and Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, October 14, 2008; Page A01

The U.S. government is dramatically escalating its response to the financial crisis by planning to invest $250 billion in the country's banks, forcing nine of the largest to accept a Treasury stake in what amounts to a partial nationalization.

News that European governments also planned to take stakes in their banks and anticipation of new U.S. measures unleashed a tremendous surge in U.S. stock prices yesterday, with the Dow Jones industrial average soaring to the biggest percentage gain since the 1930s, up 11.1 percent. It ended 936.42 points higher, the largest point gain ever, just days after the Dow had its steepest weekly decline in history.

The Treasury Department's decision to take equity stakes in banks represents a significant reversal, coming just weeks after Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. had opposed the idea. In a momentous meeting yesterday afternoon in Washington, Paulson, flanked by top financial regulators, told the executives of nine leading banks that they needed to participate in the program for the good of the national economy, two industry sources said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The government's initiative, which was to be announced this morning before the markets open for New York trading, is part of a wider plan that goes beyond the $700 billion rescue package approved by Congress earlier this month. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is also set to announce today the launch of an insurance fund to guarantee new issues of bank debt. It will provide unlimited deposit insurance for non-interest-bearing accounts, which are widely used by small businesses for payroll and other purposes.

In pressing the bank executives to accept partial government ownership, Paulson's message was clear: Though officially the program was voluntary, the banks had little choice in the matter. In exchange for giving the Treasury minority stakes, the nine firms would jointly receive an investment worth $125 billion. The government would make another $125 billion available for the next 30 days to thousands of other banks and thrifts across the country.

Federal officials set conditions, telling the banks they could not raise their dividends without government permission and could not offer their executives new retirement packages, though the old packages would remain intact.

Paulson told them the moves would shore up confidence in their own institutions, spark lending throughout the system and send a message to smaller institutions that there is no stigma in accepting federal funding. Though some were reluctant, all of the executives complied.

There is a risk that banks will take the new government capital and use it to bolster their balance sheets but still not resume lending, and the Treasury is not getting any specific contractual guarantee to prevent that from happening. But bank regulators, particularly the Federal Reserve, will lean heavily on the firms receiving infusions to use the capital to increase their lending to businesses and consumers.

Taken together, the steps planned by the Treasury, the FDIC and the Federal Reserve amount to a monumental effort to jump-start the business of lending, which all but dried up in recent weeks as banks have lost faith in one another and their customers. Global markets began to melt down. Some emerging nations teetered on the brink of financial collapse.

Over the weekend, global leaders agreed in meetings in Washington to launch a coordinated program of injecting cash into the world's banks and guaranteeing their debt. The action by U.S. officials yesterday represented the U.S. version of those broad principles, and it was matched by similar efforts in Europe yesterday.

As part of the effort to flood the financial system with cash, the Federal Reserve made unlimited funds available early yesterday to other major central banks so they could inject money into banks in their countries and ease the shortage of dollars they face. Previously, the Fed's program of lending dollars to the European Central Bank, Bank of England, Bank of Japan and others had been capped at a total of $380 billion.

Under the rescue legislation signed into law earlier this month, the Treasury is allowed to take equity stakes in banks.

During debates on Capitol Hill, Paulson repeatedly described that measure as a way to shore up ailing financial institutions by buying their troubled mortgage securities and other assets.

Now that he has decided to use the $250 billion installment to pump capital directly into the banking system, he is planning to immediately ask Congress for a second installment of $100 billion to buy or insure the assets from institutions, according to congressional staff and banking industry executives briefed on the plan.

"When I was talking to members of Congress back then, they believed they were voting to buy up troubled assets, not to make capital infusions in banks," said Alan Blinder, a Princeton economist and a former Fed vice chairman. "If I were a member of Congress, I would be wondering about bait and switch because that was not really discussed."

Among the first to push the idea of injecting money into banks in exchange for an equity stake was Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), who proposed the idea at a Sept. 18 night meeting on Capitol Hill that included legislators as well as Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke.

After Paulson described his plan for the Treasury to buy up mortgage backed securities, Bachus suggested there were certainly other ways to address the crisis. "There has to be alternatives," he recalled telling the group, in an account that is consistent with accounts of others who were present at the meeting. "Why not inject capital into the institutions?"

At the meeting, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) expressed support for the idea, according to people at the meeting.

But Treasury officials "said this is a crisis and that there was no time," Bachus said. Paulson "was very fearful that if we didn't do something immediately, we were going to see terrible things happen."

He said he thought that Paulson had acted with "integrity" but that "I do believe they had this one plan, and they were saying 'This is it.' "

Bachus answered the objection by saying that the government could take a non-voting stake in the institutions. But opponents in the meeting, including Treasury, were unmoved.

"I do think there were some ideological predisposition against capital injections," Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said of the meeting. Also, "their view was that it would take too long because you'd have to do it on a bank-by-bank basis."

Yesterday, few lawmakers took issue with the plan to recapitalize banks. But key Democrats argued that strict executive compensation limits should apply to any institution that accepts government money.

"Restrictions on executive compensation will ensure that taxpayer money is not wasted enriching the same people whose poor decision-making created this crisis," Schumer wrote in a letter to Paulson yesterday. "It is imperative that these restrictions, including limitations on the incentives for executives to take excessive risks and the elimination of golden parachutes, should apply to any capital injection program."

The new insurance program that will be launched by the FDIC to insure non-interest-bearing accounts is aimed mainly at small businesses, which tend to keep the largest balances in bank accounts and therefore are particularly likely to withdraw money if they believe their bank is having financial problems. Because banks are barred by law from paying interest on business accounts, the new guarantee will basically encompass all such accounts.

The extended guarantee matches similar guarantees by European countries, easing a concern that businesses would move money to overseas accounts. But the move also raises questions again about whether the FDIC will have enough money to meet its growing obligations as banks continue to fail.

The FDIC's bank debt guarantee would be open to newly issued bonds and other forms of debt that are issued before June of next year. The government's guarantee would last three years.

Earlier yesterday, while speaking to international bankers, Neel Kashkari, who is temporarily overseeing the government's $700 billion rescue package, laid out some details of the Treasury's efforts on that plan and acknowledged the need to move quickly. Kashkari, who was appointed interim assistant Treasury secretary for financial stability last week, said that key appointments, including a "prime contractor" company to oversee and run the purchase of troubled assets from banks, will be announced as early as today. It has also received "hundreds" of applications from firms seeking to become asset managers for the securities that Treasury will purchase. Other officials added that the department has hired law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and investment consultants Ennis Knupp & Associates to help with the selection of contractors for the program.

Kashkari said the Treasury will be clarifying conflicts of interests among any firms that it hires because "firms with the relevant financial expertise may also hold assets that become eligible for sale."

Staff writers Binyamin Appelbaum, Zachary A. Goldfarb and Lori Montgomery contributed to this report.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Thailand Sends More Troops to Cambodian Border


Thai soldiers stand guard near a pagoda close to Preah Vihear temple in Cambodia. Thailand and Cambodia showed no signs Tuesday of resolving their long-simmering spat over a disputed border area near an ancient temple, with Bangkok insisting its troops would remain in place. (AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Thailand Sends More Troops to Cambodian Border

By Nopporn Wong-Anan and Ek Madra

BANGKOK/PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Thailand sent more soldiers to a disputed stretch of the Cambodian border near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple on Tuesday, a Thai general said, hours after a Cambodian general said Thai troops had pulled back.

Eastern Region Commander Vibulsak Neepan said troops from both sides had retreated slightly but were facing off about 100 metres apart and Bangkok was sending in reinforcements in case the dispute escalated.

"The situation is quite tense at the front line," Lieutenant-General Vibulsak told Channel 3 television.

"We have mobilised more troops and heavy artillery to the area, just enough to resist and retaliate."

His comments came shortly after Cambodian commander General Chea Mon told Reuters by telephone from the border that nearly 100 Thai soldiers alleged to have made an incursion onto Cambodian soil had retreated.

"The situation seems to have returned to normal," he said. "Our troops are occupying the area where the Thai troops have pulled out."

Vibulsak admitted Thai soldiers had entered a disputed "no-man's land" on the border after getting permission from the Cambodian side, as is normally required, but said they were only there to inspect landmines.

On Monday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to turn the area into a "death zone" unless the Thais retreated by midday Tuesday (6 a.m. British time).

The Thai military said it was ready for war and the Foreign Ministry told Thais to "think twice" before visiting Cambodia, only fives years after a nationalist mob torched the embassy in Phnom Penh in an argument about another ancient Hindu temple.

Singapore and Indonesia asked both sides to show restraint.

Tensions have been high since July, when 2,000 soldiers faced off only yards apart in trenches dug into a hillside that until 10 years ago was under the control of remnants of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot's guerrilla army.

At the heart of the dispute is 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub near the temple, which the International Court of Justice awarded to Cambodia in 1962, a ruling that has rankled in Thailand ever since.

The dispute flared in July after protesters trying to overthrow the Thai government attacked Bangkok's backing of Phnom Penh's bid to list the Hindu ruins as a World Heritage site.

(Additional reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak and Nopporn Wong-Anan)

(Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Paul Tait)

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Thai PM: Negotiations to Resolve Border Problem with Cambodia

Thai PM: Negotiations to Resolve Border Problem with Cambodia


BANGKOK, Oct 14 (TNA) - Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat reaffirmed Tuesday that Thailand "will hold negotiations and not use any force" in a bid to end the ongoing border dispute with its neighbour Cambodia.

Speaking to a press conference after holding a meeting with commanders of the three armed forces and senior security officers, Mr. Somchai said the Thai military will stand guard inside Thai territory while negotiations aimed at finding a peaceful solution will be held next week.

A working level meeting is scheduled to be held Wednesday while the military of both countries have agreed to convene a special meeting of the Regional Border Committee next Tuesday.

The planned meetings were urgently arranged after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen reportedly spoke to the media, shortly after ending his meeting with visiting Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornvivat in Phnom Penh on Monday that Thai troops must be withdrawn from the disputed border area near the ancient Preah Vihear temple immediately or risk a large-scale armed conflict.

To date, Thai forces are now posted in Thai territory and "peace" still prevails in the disputed area, said Mr. Somchai, also defence minister, adding that the two neighbouring countries are "still good friends".

Meanwhile, commanders of the Thai three armed forces held a special meeting chaired by military commander Gen. Songkitti Jaggabatara and unanimously agreed that Thai soldiers would continue to patrol disputed area around the Preah Vihear temple because the ownership of the area is not yet settled, according to Army spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd.

Relations between the two countries, both members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, flared up in July after the 11th century temple which belongs to Cambodia was awarded heritage status by the UNESCO.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia, but the 4.6 square kilometre area adjacent to the temple remains at issue between the two countries.

Stressing that the Thai military is now ready for armed confrontation to protect Thai sovereignty, Col. Sansern said the army has already coordinated with other armed forces to evacuate Thais living in Cambodia and bring them home in case the situation gets out of control.

Col. Sansern noted that problem on the disputed area has continued for a long time but has become worsen only recently and this is probably because Cambodia wants to brings the issue to the international level. (TNA)

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Thailand Increasing Presence on Cambodia Border

Thailand Increasing Presence on Cambodia Border

By SE Asia correspondent Karen Percy and wires

Thailand is moving additional troops and weapons closer to a disputed border area with Cambodia.

Earlier, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen issued an ultimatum for the Thais to leave the area or face attack.

When the deadline had passed Cambodia claimed the Thai soldiers withdrew, while the Thais denied that.

A regional army commander in Thailand has told the local media that the military is increasing its presence near the Preah Vihear temple but would not specify how many soldiers, nor what type of armaments are being mobilised.

Both sides have had several thousands troops on stand-by since a border flare up in July.

Thailand's new Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat held a lengthy meeting with military leaders and told reporters that they will do what is needed to protect Thailand's sovereignty.

He emphasised that Thailand would not attack first.

The area has been the centre of a decades long dispute between the two countries.

At the heart of the dispute is 4.6 square kilometres of scrub near the temple, which the International Court of Justice awarded to Cambodia in 1962, a ruling that has rankled many in Thailand ever since.

Tensions have been high since July, when around 1,000 soldiers on both sides faced off only yards apart in trenches dug into a hillside that until 10 years ago was under the control of remnants of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot's guerrilla army.

- ABC/Reuters

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Thai troops leave Cambodia border

Thai Troops Leave Cambodia Border

(Asia Pacific News)Thai soldiers have pulled back from a disputed stretch of the border with Cambodia near an ancient temple after Cambodia's leader threatened Thailand with "armed clashes".

General Chea Mon of the Cambodian army, said on Tuesday that Thai troops had "pulled out from our land" shortly before the expiry of a noon deadline set by Hun Sen, the Cambodian prime minister.

After meeting Thailand's foreign minister on Monday, Hun Sen had said "armed clashes" would erupt if Thai troops continued to "trespass" over the border.

"We told them that if they do not stop [trespassing], armed clashes will break out," Hun Sen told reporters, warning that the area could become "a life-and-death battleground".

Disputed area

Hun Sen's meeting with Sompong Amornwiwat, Thailand's foreign minister, was the latest effort to ease tensions over a territorial dispute that earlier this month sparked a brief exchange of gunfire at the border that injured one Cambodian and two Thai soldiers.

Both countries have long claimed Preah Vihear, but the World Court awarded it to Cambodia in 1962.

Sovereignty over some of the land around the temple, however, has not been clearly resolved.

Tensions flared in July when the UN accepted Cambodia's submission to name Preah Vihear a World Heritage site, with both countries deploying troops to the border.

There has been a limited troop withdrawal from the area since, and talks have been held several times to resolve the conflicting claims, but without much progress.

In a statement issued after Monday's meeting, Cambodia's foreign ministry called for more talks to "avoid further unwarranted hostilities".

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Cambodia: Thai troops retreat from disputed border

Thai soldiers pull back from Cambodian border

PHNOM PENH (Reuters): Thai soldiers pulled back from a disputed stretch of the Cambodian border Tuesday, a Cambodian general on the scene said, shortly before the expiry of a conflict deadline set by Phnom Penh.

"They pulled out from our land," General Chea Mon told Reuters by phone from the vicinity of the Preah Vihear temple, which lies at the heart of the border dispute.

"The situation seems to have returned to normal," he said.

(Reporting by Ek Madra; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Darren Schuettler)

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Cambodia: Thai troops retreat from disputed border


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — A Cambodian army official says Thai troops have retreated from a disputed border ahead of a noon deadline issued by Cambodia's prime minister.

Cambodian Brig. Gen. Yim Pin, tells The Associated Press that all Thai troops had retreated from the contested area.

Yim Pin said Tuesday that "The tense situation has now eased."

Earlier, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had warned Thailand to withdraw troops by noon or face unspecified consequences.

A day earlier, Hun Sen had warned that "armed clashes will break out" if Thai troops did not retreat.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia's prime minister issued an ultimatum to Thailand to withdraw troops from a disputed border area by noon Tuesday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen's warning came amid rising tensions over a stretch of border near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, which has been a source of dispute between the two countries for decades.

Hun Sen accused Thai troops of advancing on a border area called Eagle Field near the temple in an attempt to occupy Cambodian land.

"They must withdraw," Hun Sen said. "I have set the timeline for them to withdraw by 12 o'clock." Noon in Cambodia is 1 a.m. EDT.

"At any cost, we will not allow Thai troops to invade this area. I would like to be clear about this," Hun Sen said. He added that he had ordered Cambodia's army chiefs to "take full responsibility over this area. It is a life-and-death battle zone."

Thailand's Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said he had ordered the army to "take care of the situation so there is no violence."

"We do not object to redeployment so there is no confrontation," Somchai told reporters, adding that he was not aware of Hun Sen's deadline.

Both countries have long claimed Preah Vihear, but the World Court awarded it to Cambodia in 1962. However, sovereignty over some of the land around the temple has not been clearly resolved.

Tensions flared July 15 after UNESCO, the U.N. agency, approved Cambodia's bid to have the Preah Vihear temple named a World Heritage Site. Both sides deployed troops to the border.

A brief gunfight broke out between the two sides early this month, with one Cambodian and two Thai soldiers wounded. Both sides claimed the other fired first and blamed each other for being on the wrong side of the border. Three days later, two Thai soldiers lost legs when they stepped on land mines in the area.

Hun Sen met Monday with Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornwiwat, but the meeting appeared to end without a resolution.

He said Monday, "We told them that if they do not stop (trespassing), armed clashes will break out."

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

In Cold blood

In Cold blood: He did not think he had put himself in danger because he did not identify the officer by name,” the source said on condition of anonymity. Several others – all of whom requested anonymity, citing concern for personal security – said that Khim Sambo was writing about Cambodian National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy.



Hok Lundy prior to his departure for a visit to the US (Photo: AFP)

A woman prays in front of a portrait of journalist Khim Sambo, who was murdered along with his son in a Phnom Penh street on July 11. Police, who are being aided by the FBI, say they have no suspects in the case. Photo: AFP

In Cold blood

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2008
SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST (Hong Kong)

The circumstances surrounding journalist Khim Sambo’s murder point to official involvement, writes Vincent MacIsaac

"They had no fear of being arrested. They weren’t wearing helmets and made no attempt to disguise their identity" - Chan Soveth, of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association"

Two weeks before he and his 21-year-old son were shot dead, Cambodian journalist Khim Sambo reported on a not uncommon topic in opposition-affiliated newspapers. When gamblers from the upper echelons of the ruling Cambodia People’s Party (CPP), accompanied by armed bodyguards or police, have prolonged losing streaks, it sometimes erupts in anger and even violence.

“When they lose, and cannot borrow more from the casino, they arrest the casino owners,” he wrote under one of his numerous pseudonyms, Srey Ka, in the June 28-29 weekend edition of the daily Khmer Conscience, which is affiliated with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP).

However, Khim Sambo – whose own anger needed to be “toned down”, according to a former colleague – went further than most, mocking the behaviour of a senior police officer described by many as “one of the most dangerous men in Cambodia”.

He reported on an incident that allegedly occurred – SRP newspapers are often accused of fabrication or exaggeration – on June 25 at a casino complex at a border crossing with Vietnam in the town of Bavet in Svay Rieng province.

After losing his shirt at Le Macau Casino and Hotel, the officer borrowed from the casino, lost that, borrowed more – and lost again. When the casino manager refused to lend any more, he had him arrested by the junior officers accompanying him, Khim Sambo reported.

He went further, describing how the officer stacked the deck: “When he loses US$100,000, the casino returns US$50,000. But he plays until losing the returned money, and demands to borrow more. If any casino owner dares to say ‘no’, he threatens to arrest him.”

Khim Sambo did not identify the officer by name but dropped enough hints so that when he concluded his report by stating “there is no need to name [the CPP gamblers] because everyone in Cambodia knows who they are”, he assumed readers would be able to identify the officer, a source said.

“He did not think he had put himself in danger because he did not identify the officer by name,” the source said on condition of anonymity. Several others – all of whom requested anonymity, citing concern for personal security – said that Khim Sambo was writing about Cambodian National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy.

The former governor of Svay Rieng province has been at the top of Cambodia’s police force since 1994. “There is hardly anyone in Cambodia who has shown more contempt for the rule of law than Hok Lundy,” Human Rights Watch has said. He “represents the absolute worst Cambodia has to offer”, it said.

“We believe the killing is related to that article,” Son Chhay, the whip of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party claimed, though he declined to identify the subject of the article.

The editor of Khmer Conscience, Dam Sith, who had been jailed on defamation charges in June, said he knew nothing about the article when interviewed by phone last Thursday.

That day, he was interviewed by one of the two agents from America’s FBI, said to be “supporting” their Cambodian counterparts in the investigation.

“I told them I don’t know anything about who is behind the killing, and that I hope they find who it is,” he said.

Chan Soveth, a programme officer at the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, warned that “if the FBI cannot work independently [their assistance] is just a political game”.

He arrived at the scene of the double homicide about 30 minutes after it occurred at about 6.30pm on July 11 and has been investigating ever since. He fears the police are protecting the perpetrators rather than trying to solve the crime.

Khim Sambo, 47, bled to death on the side of a busy street in central Phnom Penh, minutes after being shot twice in the back while riding a motorcycle driven by his son Khat Sarinpheata. The young man died the next day in a Phnom Penh hospital, after being shot twice while cradling his dying father, said Chan Soveth.

The killers, two men on a motorbike who approached Khim Sambo and his son from behind, were probably hired assassins, he said, pointing out that they used a K-49 pistol with a silencer.

“They had no fear of being arrested. They weren’t wearing helmets and made no attempt to disguise their identity. They acted like they were under protection,” Chan Soveth said.

When he arrived at the scene, he was able to gather information from bystanders but, when he returned the following morning, no one would speak to him, he said. Silence permeates human rights groups in Cambodia. When asked who he thought was behind the killing, Chan Soveth declined to answer. “I want to continue living in Cambodia,” he said.

He believes the murders were intended to create an atmosphere of fear ahead of the July general election, which the CPP won by a landslide. This view was widely promoted by Cambodian and international human rights groups who expressed outrage following the killing.

But SRP whip Son Chhay disputes that there was any link between the killings and the election. “It was not a political killing,” he said. “There was no order from the top of the CPP,” he said. “[Prime Minister] Hun Sen does not know who is behind the killings. If Hun Sen knew who was behind the killings, the FBI would not have been allowed to join the investigation.”

He added: “The FBI has been allowed in because the CPP believes they will be unable to find evidence of government involvement,” though he in no way suggests that the CPP has turned benevolent.

“Their behaviour, their totalitarian thinking is very much like the Khmer Rouge. Either you support the CPP or you are an enemy of the state. Killing opposition members is acceptable,” he said.

Son Chhay and Chan Soveth said they feared that the FBI was likely to be used by the Cambodian police to provide a veneer of legitimacy to what the latter described as a “sham investigation”.

Son Chhay noted: “They have this great ability to manipulate the international community and they will manipulate the FBI to make sure nothing happens [with the investigation].”

This is already happening, he said, pointing to a police statement published in the Cambodia Daily this month quoting Phnom Penh’s police commissioner as saying that an “FBI official had agreed that the killings were motivated by someoneseeking revenge against the journalist’s son”.

Senior police officers have suggested that the target of the killers was not Khim Sambo but his son.

In his initial report into the crime, Chan Soveth found no evidence thateither the father or the son were involved in a personal dispute that could have led to their murders.

US embassy spokesman John Johnson said he was aware that some human rights investigators had accused the local police of a cover-up. Because the investigation was ongoing, he said, he could not comment on the details of the case.

The FBI agents were playing a “purely supportive” role in the investigation at the invitation of the interior ministry, he said. Besides two investigators, who arrived on September 14, a forensic artist had arrived last week to assist localpolice with a sketch of the assailants, he added.

One day after meeting the FBI agents, Phnom Penh deputy police chief Hy Prou, who is in charge of the investigation, said there were no leads on a suspect and that the complexities of the case made investigating it difficult.

However, the fact that editor Dam Sith was interviewed for the first time after the FBI agents arrived could signal that the bureau is nudging the Cambodian police in a new direction – towards the articles Khim Sambo wrote before he was killed.

In an interview at his home last Saturday, Dam Sith said that one of the questions asked by the FBI agent, who was accompanied by a translator from the US embassy and two Cambodian officers, concerned the kind of articles Khim Sambo had written for him. He said he replied: “A lot of articles about different things.”

Dam Sith is a father with three young children. Since Khim Sambo’s killing he does not leave his home unless he has to. He looked like he had not slept in weeks and was in a highly nervous state.

In 2006, Hok Lundy was denied a US visa due to allegations that he was involved in drug and human trafficking. The following month, however, the FBI awarded him a medal for his efforts in fighting terrorism. In April last year, he was finally granted a US visa, to attend a counter-terrorism workshop.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Can the G-7 Save the World from Financial Chaos?

Friday, Oct. 10, 2008

Can the G-7 Save the World from Financial Chaos?


By Massimo Calabresi / Washington and Bill Saporito / New York

It may be too much to ask the G-7, which normally reserves its energy for pointless but massively expensive annual summits in deluxe resorts like Heiligendamm, Germany or Sea Island, Georgia, to take dramatic steps to address the financial crisis that is sweeping the world. But we should at least expect that the seven most powerful national economies would not make things worse at a moment of global need. Or should we?

The world's economists have been nearly unanimous in saying that only a coordinated, worldwide effort can stem the current credit crunch and companion market meltdown. Their proposed solutions include: cut interest rates, recapitalize the banks and insure deposits; get governments to step in and guarantee short term interbank lending. "The first good thing about this situation is that it does not call for different central banks and Treasuries to do different things, but rather for them all to do the same thing in unison without fouling each other's oars. That should be relatively easy to arrange," wrote University of California Berkeley professor J. Bradford DeLong in a new e-book about the crisis.

Maybe. The G-7 Finance Ministers and central bankers met in Washington this afternoon and issued what they called a plan of action, although it was a curiously action-free plan. In fact, the document they produced was only an opaque statement of principles, devoid of action. "We commit to continue working together to stabilize financial markets and restore the flow of credit, to support global economic growth," the statement said. No specifics were mentioned. They may be over the weekend, away from the glare of global stock markets.

U.S. officials were quick to back the non-action plan. "Behind the principles are an expectation of action, just not a detailed plan for action," said one White House official. President Bush himself tried to put a positive face on things in a statement on the economy Friday morning but all he could manage was to argue that through the international meetings, "the world is sending an unmistakable signal: We're in this together, and we'll come through this together."

Global stock markets were sending an unmistakable signal, too. Panic. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished its worst week ever, off about 22%. On Friday the market swung wildly, dropping 500 points on three occasions, then vaulting into positive territory before coughing up its gains in the last half hour of trading to finish the day down 128 at 8451. The Nasdaq even managed a small gain. But European and Asian markets were pummeled again.

The danger is that the G-7, always fractious and inclined to inaction, may be unable to agree on what moves to make. Worse, it's not just the G-7 that's in the spotlight. The other pillars of 20th century international financial stability are meeting this weekend in Washington, and expectations for action by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the G-20 are also low. The less the international organizations seem likely to do, the louder the cry for help becomes. "This is a financial crisis that is global and needs a global response," says Prof. Helge Berger, of the Freie Universitat in Berlin, "Piecemeal won't work."

What should the G-7 and the other international institutions do?

There's absolute agreement that banks have to be recapitalized. Britain for one has already done so, offering its big banks $692 billion in capital in return for preference shares. U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced this evening that the U.S. is working on a plan to go this route, saying that it intends to use some of the $700 billion rescue package passed by Congress to pour money (with some strings attached) into any bank that needs funds. But Japan and EU countries like Germany have been reticent.

To get credit markets moving again, economists have called for governments to guarantee short term interbank loans. "Recapitalization by itself won't fix the interbank lending market," says Roger Craine another UC Berkley professor and a former Federal Reserve economist. The big problem now is that banks are unwilling to let go of their money because of counterparty risk — the fear that the borrower may go under, sticking the bank with the loss. "If the bank you lend to has assets in a hedge fund that goes under then they are likely to go under," explains Craine. A coordinated interbank debt guarantee by governments would temper that fear of lending. There's a moral hazard here, too, in that a guarantee might also tempt banks to get too risky again, but most experts say that hazard can be handled by forcing them to put up some of their own capital as margin. At the same time, depositors need to be assured that their money is safe. That's why the FDIC moved to temporarily raise the insurance limit on savings accounts to $250,000 from $100,000. Ireland and England have also made similar guarantees.

There's also a role for the world's lender of last resort, the IMF. The IMF, say economists, should step up and publish details of a ready-to-use financial help package for any countries that may be in danger of going the way of Iceland, which was unable to bolster over-leveraged banks that fail. Panicked trading Friday in Eastern Europe raised concerns that some emerging economies there could be in trouble. The IMF should set aside many of the more stringent conditions it has imposed on borrowers in the past to encourage countries to draw on its assets.

Lastly, the G-20 central banks need to unveil another coordinated rate cut to increase liquidity. The European Central Bank, for instance, has been resistant to cuts because it focuses on inflation. Nouriel Roubini, an economics professor at New York University and one of the few who predicted the extent of the current crisis, called yesterday for "at least 150 basis points (1.5 percentage points) on average globally." Roubini also backed the idea of deposit guarantees, guaranteeing interbank lending and other measures. "At this point anything short of these radical and coordinated actions may lead to a market crash, a global systemic financial meltdown and to a global depression."

Roubini has been particularly apocalyptic, but given how things have gone in the world economy over the last few weeks it's worth listening to this prophet of doom. Maybe things aren't as dire as he says. But maybe only the prospect of global catastrophe can compel world leaders to act forcefully, while we still have some money left.


Find this article at:
http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1849385,00.html

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Paulson: ‘Aggressive’ Global Effort Planned; U.S. to Take Bank Stakes

October 10, 2008, 6:45 pm

Paulson: ‘Aggressive’ Global Effort Planned; U.S. to Take Bank Stakes



U.S. Treasury Secretary Paulson said he and his Group of Seven counterparts had agreed to an “aggressive” plan to deal with a financial turmoil that has quickly ballooned into a “global event.” While the U.S. has come up with its own bank rescue plan, Paulson said other countries are considering options appropriate to their own situations. The $700 billion U.S. rescue plan will be used not only to buy and insure mortgage assets, but to buy equity in financial institutions, he said. “We are working to develop a standardized program that is open to a broad array of financial institutions,” Paulson said. Here is the text of his statment:

Statement by Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr. Following Meeting of the G-7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors

Washington, DC– At today’s meeting of the G-7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, we finalized an aggressive action plan to address the turmoil in global financial markets and the stresses on our financial institutions. This action plan provides a coherent framework that will direct our individual and collective policy steps to provide liquidity to markets, strengthen financial institutions, protect savers, and enforce investor protections.

The G-7 is compelled to robust international partnership and cooperation. Never has it been more essential to find collective solutions to ensure stable and efficient financial markets and restore the health of the world economy.

Global financial market conditions are severely strained. In the United States, our economy has been facing a prolonged period of uncertainty and our financial markets are experiencing unprecedented and extraordinary challenges. A root cause of this situation is the housing correction and a lack of confidence in mortgage assets, as well as a lack of confidence in many of the financial institutions that hold these assets. We are squarely focused on the immediate need to stabilize our financial markets, and recognize that investor confidence is critical to restore liquidity and enhance the stability of our financial system.

As recent developments have demonstrated, the market turmoil is a global event. Governments around the world have taken actions to address financial market developments, and international cooperation and coordination has been robust. It is critical for governments to continue to take individual and collective actions to provide much-needed liquidity, strengthen financial institutions, enhance market stability, and develop a comprehensive regulatory response. We must continue to closely coordinate our actions and work within a common framework so that the action of one country does not come at the expense of others or the stability of the system as a whole.

Central banks from around the world have acted together to provide additional liquidity for financial institutions, taking the necessary steps to support the global economy. The Federal Reserve has established swap lines with nine central banks to reduce pressures in global short-term U.S. dollar markets. Additionally, the U.S. Treasury implemented a temporary guaranty program for the U.S. money market mutual fund industry.

Here in the United States, the members of the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets (PWG) made it clear that we will coordinate the use of our existing and new authorities to restore market confidence. Other countries are considering appropriate programs given their national circumstances, and we pledge to stay in close contact as they move forward with their plans.

I briefed my colleagues on the work we are pursuing to implement swiftly and thoughtfully the new financial rescue package. We are developing strategies to use the authority to purchase and insure mortgage assets and to purchase equity in financial institutions, as deemed necessary to promote financial market stability. As we develop plans to purchase equity, as in the approach we are taking to broad mortgage asset purchases, we are working to develop a standardized program that is open to a broad array of financial institutions. Such a program would be designed to encourage the raising of new private capital to complement public capital. Consistent with the legislation, any equity the government purchases through a broadly available equity program would be on a non-voting basis, except with respect to the market standard terms to protect our rights as investors.

Securities regulators around the world have taken measures to enhance market stability by addressing market abuse. Here in the United States, we have taken steps to protect the savings of the American people by increasing deposit insurance limits, and the European Union member states have raised individual deposit limits to an EU-wide minimum.

The G-7 and others are working together through the Financial Stability Forum (FSF) to ensure a comprehensive, international regulatory response to the financial market turmoil. FSF Chairman Mario Draghi reported to us on the good progress that has been made in improving prudential supervision and regulation, increasing disclosure and transparency, and enhancing accounting frameworks. I am committed to making sure this work continues. We are also committed to tackling the next steps laid out by Chairman Draghi to be done by the end of this year and our ambitious agenda for 2009.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Deaths as Thai police, protesters clash

Deaths as Thai Police, Protesters Clash


Source: CNN



Story Highlights
# NEW: Officials say two dead, 420 injured in clashes outside Thai Parliament
# Protesters want the ruling party removed from office
# They say current government is proxy of ousted ex-prime minister

BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- Two people died Tuesday when Thai police clashed with thousands of anti-government protesters who barricaded Parliament and prevented lawmakers from leaving.

One person died after a car bomb exploded near the protest area, officials said, and Ramathibhodi Hospital officials confirmed that a woman died from severe chest injuries suffered in the clash with police.

More than 420 people have been hurt, hospital officials said. A deputy prime minister who was charged with negotiating with the demonstrators resigned over the crackdown.

The protesters first prevented lawmakers from entering Parliament to hear newly sworn-in Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat give his first speech to the legislative body.

After the sparsely attended session -- some lawmakers were unable to get through the barricades and some opposition party members boycotted -- the legislators were temporarily prevented from leaving by demonstrators who locked the exits.

Authorities flew in three helicopters to pluck Somchai to safety.

Paramedics say they expect the injury toll to rise as demonstrators continued to clash with police. The anti-government protesters are trying to lay siege to other government buildings near the Parliament in the capital city, Bangkok.

Many set up make-shift fortresses of tires and barbed wires on city streets and tried to ward off an advancing army of policemen in riot gear. Video Watch police and protesters clash »

The escalating violence led to the resignation Tuesday of Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who had been the government's chief negotiator in the crisis.

He said in his resignation letter that he was stepping down to accept responsibility for the breakdown in communication.

Tuesday's flare-up is the latest in an ongoing crisis that has gripped the nation since summer, when anti-government demonstrators, led by the People Alliance of Democracy (PAD), undertook efforts to purge the current Cabinet.

On Sunday, Thai police arrested a key opposition leader as part of its crackdown on the anti-government protests.

Chamlong Srimuang, a PAD leader, was arrested from a polling booth after he cast his ballot in the Bangkok's gubernatorial elections.

Since August 26, the PAD and its supporters have laid siege to the Government House -- the seat of the Thai government -- saying they will not leave until the ruling People Power Party (PPP) and its allies are ousted from office.

Police issued arrest warrants against Chamlong and nine other leaders, charging them with insurrection, conspiracy, illegal assembly and refusal to disperse.

On Friday, authorities took into custody another PAD leader, Chaiwat Sinsuwong.

The anti-government alliance accuses the PPP of being a proxy government for one-time Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a bloodless coup in 2006.

Thaksin returned to Thailand after the PPP swept into power in December 2007, but fled again in August, just as he was to appear in a corruption case against him.

The PAD contends that the People Power Party wants to amend the constitution so Thaksin does not have to face charges.

The protesters have held mass street demonstrations, some of which ended in clashes with pro-government supporters.

The protests began with the PAD calling for the ouster of Samak Sundaravej, who was then the Thai Prime Minister.

Samak was eventually removed from office after a constitutional court ruled on September 9 that he had violated the constitution by appearing as a paid guest on a TV cooking show.

But opposition party supporters were further inflamed when Samak was replaced by Somchai, Thaksin's brother-in-law. He was sworn in on September 25.

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