- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2002

King's return ensures safe election
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia King Norodom Sihanouk's return to Cambodia before next month's local elections will ensure peace during the historic ballot, his son, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, said yesterday.
King Sihanouk, 79, left for medical treatment in Beijing in December, but Prince Ranariddh said the monarch would return before the country's first-ever local elections on Feb. 3.
"The presence of his majesty the king will guarantee the elections are safe," Prince Ranariddh told reporters outside parliament.
The elections, scheduled for next month, have already been marred by the killing of several election candidates.
King Sihanouk commands massive respect among Cambodia's competing political factions and at times of internal strife his views are often sought for guidance.

Plot to kidnap leaders thwarted
SUVA, Fiji Police yesterday claimed they had smashed a plot by supporters of a failed coup leader to kidnap Fiji's prime minister, military chief and other leaders of the South Pacific island.
The men planned to hold the group hostage and release them only after Fiji freed jailed coup leader George Speight, said police Commissioner Isiki Savua.
Mr. Speight, an indigenous Fijian nationalist, is being held on a prison island while he awaits a February trial for treason after his 2000 takeover at gunpoint of a former government led by ethnic Indians.
Police claimed that the group had planned to kidnap Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, along with military commander Frank Bainimarama, Attorney General Qoriniasi Bale and six others.

Thailand to host Burma meeting
BANGKOK Thailand will host the sixth annual meeting of a joint commission aimed at strengthening bilateral economic and security cooperation with Burma, the Thai Foreign Ministry announced yesterday.
It said the Thailand-Burma Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation meeting would focus on anti-drug efforts, trade, fishing, illegal immigration, telecommunications, energy, the environment and tourism.
The gathering Tuesday and Wednesday at the resort of Phuket will be co-chaired by Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and his Burmese courterpart, Win Aung.
Top officials from Thailand and Burma have exchanged several visits in the past year to ease relations that flared early last year amid accusations over drug trafficking along their shared border.

U.S. will support hunt for drug baron
BANGKOK The United States will help Thailand crack down on drugs by sending investigators and information on traffickers such as reputed Burmese kingpin Wei Xiew-kang, officials said yesterday.
Police Col. Pirapan Premputi of the Anti-Money Laundering Commission said after a meeting with U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials that the United States would also send a blacklist of regional drug traders.
"It includes a few Thais who are on the U.S. blacklist for being involved with drugs," he told reporters, adding that up to six ethnic Chinese were believed to be working with Mr. Wei from Thailand.
Thai authorities last week seized property reportedly worth more than $2 million from Mr. Wei, who is wanted by the United States.

Delegation to assess relations with China
TAIPEI, Taiwan A U.S. delegation had arrived in Taipei for discussions on the island's security and economic links with China after the two archrivals' accession to the World Trade Organization, officials said yesterday.
But they refused to comment on a report that the visit by members of the U.S.-China Commission was linked to Taiwan potentially canceling a multimillion-dollar order for weaponry from the United States.
"The delegation is here to study the overall security situations across the Taiwan Strait and economic interaction between Taiwan and the mainland after the two sides joined the WTO," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Chang Siao-yueh.


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