BANGKOK, Aug 13 (Bernama) — Thailand and Cambodia will miss an immediate available opportunity to sort out their border disputes after postponing their general border committee meeting scheduled for end of this month.
The postponement of the Aug 27 meeting in Pattaya was decided by its co-chair — Thailand Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon and his Cambodian counterpart General Tea Banh.
Thai Defence Ministry said the meeting had to be postponed because several documents, including the agreements on the joint cooperation for the clearing of land mines, suppression of illicit drug and human trafficking, to be signed at the meeting, were not ready.
Political observers, however, believe that the postponement was to allow the “cooling off period” to take place in the wake of the rising tension between the two neighbours over the border issues.
The border committee meeting is among the mechanisms in which both countries seek to resolve the issues through the implementation of a memorandum of understanding on land boundary demarcation which they signed in 2000.
The Thai-Cambodia border disputes have now reached the United Nations when Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen wrote a letter to the world body on Sunday claiming that Thailand had threatened to use military force to resolve the problem.
“By seriously threatening to use military force against Cambodia to settle the problem of the border, Thailand flagrantly violates Article 2.3 and 2.4 of the United Nations Charter,” Hun Sen said in the letter.
The two countries are at loggerheads over a 4.6 sq km area around the Preah Vihear Temple, with Thailand claiming the area as part of its Si Sa Ketskarntharalak district while Cambodia maintains that the area is within its Preah Vihear province.
The 11th century Hindu temple is located in the Cambodian territory as ruled by the International Court of Justice in 1962.
In 2008, Unesco listed the temple as a world heritage site, further straining the ties between the neighbours.
On July 29, the border issue heated up again when Cambodia submitted the management plan for the temple at the Unesco World Heritage Committee meeting in Brazil.
This led to a protest from Thailand, which said that the plan included part of the disputed territory.
Thailand’s Patriot Network, led by People’s Alliance for Democracy leaders associated with the yellow shirts, held a protest in this capital city on Aug 7 demanding that the Thai government revoke the 2000 border memorandum of understanding.
The group claimed that Thailand was at a disadvantage, saying the memorandum was the source of the problem because it allowed Cambodians to trespass and settle in the disputed area.
Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva defended the memorandum which was signed during the Chuan Leekpai administration, saying it was beneficial to Thailand.
Abhisit said the memorandum stated that Cambodia and Thailand had to consult each other if they wanted to carry out activities in the disputed territory.
He also said that the memorandum did not allow Cambodians to occupy the area.
On Wednesday, it was Abhisit’s turn to write to the UN in response to Hun Sen’s letter.
Abhisit explained that his remarks on the border issue were misquoted, taken out of context and misunderstood by his Cambodian counterpart.
The Thai premier wrote: “It is Thailand’s conviction that any difference between countries shall be settled by peaceful means.
“Thailand is pleased to note the re-affirmation by the prime minister of Cambodia that it is not the policy of Cambodia to use force to settle any problem with neighbouring countries. Thailand too, has the same policy,” he said in the letter.
Both countries had also raised the issue of illegal occupation of each other’s land.
Phnom Penh claimed that Bangkok had stationed soldiers in the Keo Sikkhakiri Svara pagoda of Cambodia, about 300 meters from the temple.
Bangkok reacted by asking Cambodians, who encroached into its territory at the border, to leave.
Despite current challenges in bilateral relations, Abhisit said in his letter, both nations maintained close cooperation and coordination within the bilateral and regional frameworks.
“Leaders and officials at all levels have maintained regular contacts and exchanges of visits, especially in the framework of sub-regional cooperation,” he said, adding that border trade, cross-border tourism and people-to-people contacts continued unabated.
source: according bernama.com