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Krabi landslides: conflicting reports
Thursday 31 March 2011, 02:42AM
ASEAN observers at border dispute
Thursday 24 February 2011, 01:23AM
Thailand and Cambodia agreed on February 22 to accept Indonesian observers and avoid further clashes over a border dispute that has claimed at least 10 lives and displaced thousands, officials said. The agreement came during a meeting of foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Indonesia, which holds the current chair of the 10-member block. Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, speaking on behalf of ASEAN, said it was a "unique arrangement" for a grouping that devotes most of its time to trade and avoids conflict resolution. "Indonesia will observe on both sides of the border... This is an observer team, not a peace-keeping or peace-enforcement team. The observer team will be unarmed," he told reporters after the talks. He said Cambodia and Thailand had also requested Indonesia's "engagement" in subsequent bilateral negotiations, the first of which would be convened in Indonesia at a date to be specified. "With hard work we can make things happen," the minister added, referring to weeks of behind-the-scenes activity by his office and the Jakarta-based ASEAN secretariat, headed by former Thai foreign minister Surin Pitsuwan. Thailand and Cambodia have each accused the other of starting the clashes, which erupted around the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear earlier this month. The temple belongs to Cambodia but the surrounding area is claimed by both sides. Thailand has resisted Cambodian calls for third-party mediation but now appears ready to allow Indonesia, as the chair of ASEAN, to play a formal role as observer of the ceasefire and future bilateral talks. Speaking earlier in Phnom Penh, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said a third party was essential as Thailand "signs documents with hands, but cancels them by feet".  -AFP
Red Shirts leaders walk free
Thursday 24 February 2011, 01:01AM
A Thai court on February 22 released on bail seven top leaders of the "Red Shirt" opposition movement after they spent nine months in detention over their roles in mass rallies in Bangkok. The men were held on terrorism charges since their two-month long demonstration ended in May 2010 with a deadly military crackdown that left about 90 people dead in clashes between protesters and armed troops. A judge at the capital's Criminal Court said the decision to release the seven - who include key movement members Natthawut Saikua, Weng Tojirakarn and Kokaew Pikulthong - was based on new evidence from the defence. Their bail conditions include a ban on foreign travel and on making comments likely to incite unrest. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, when asked whether the ruling would help reconciliation efforts, told reporters the decision to free the seven was the court's. Most Red Shirts leaders surrendered to police soon after the army moved in to break up the demonstration in the heart of Bangkok's retail district. Some others are still on the run. Hundreds of people, some playing loud music and carrying red roses, gathered outside the prison in a suburb of the capital and cheered loudly as the defendants walked free, dressed in white T-shirts and holding hands. "Friends, we are back. We are back with our spirits, our intentions and our lives, which we dedicate to democracy," Natthawut told the jubilant crowds, thanking them for their support. Jatuporn Prompan, a key Red Shirt leader who is free because of immunity granted to serving members of Parliament, said the ruling was "very meaningful" for the movement. He vowed to press ahead with the next scheduled protest on March 12, marking a year since the start of the 2010 rally. -AFP