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UN head set for regional tour

CAMBODIA will be one stop on a four-nation tour that United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon embarks upon next week.

In addition to a two-day visit to the Kingdom that will begin next Tuesday, Ban will visit China and attend a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at which the coming Myanmar election and human rights could be key issues under discussion.

Ban will go to Thailand and Cambodia before the summit in Vietnam and talks with China’s President Hu Jintao in Beijing, UN spokesman Farhan Haq told a press briefing in New York Tuesday.

The UN leader will hold talks with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and other Thai government representatives during a brief stay in Bangkok on October 26 before moving on the same day to Cambodia.

In Phnom Penh, he will meet with King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen, and will also visit the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal.

UN court spokesman Lars Olsen and Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday that they could not provide further details of Ban’s visit.

In a speech in August during which he announced Ban’s visit, Hun Sen said he would raise the Kingdom’s ongoing border dispute with Thailand with the UN head.

“I will seek a compromise from the UN representative. Thailand should not be afraid of international intervention … and if Thailand is afraid, it means Thailand does not have good intentions,” Hun Sen said. “Real gold is never afraid of fire,” he added.

Ban moves on to Vietnam on October 28 to attend the ASEAN summit and meet with Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

The UN leader has urged ASEAN to put more pressure on Myanmar to free dissident icon Aung San Suu Kyi and other opposition figures ahead of the country’s much-criticised election on November 7.

Ban will start the China leg of his tour on October 30 in Shanghai. He will attend the closing of the World Expo in Shanghai before a brief visit to Nanjing and then head for Beijing for talks with China’s president and other leaders.

The visit will come as China maintains its angry campaign against the awarding of the Nobel peace prize to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Ban has not criticised China directly, but has said the Nobel award recognised a “growing international consensus for improving human rights practices and culture around the world”.

AFP/ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

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