Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cambodia eyes end to Preah Vihear row

Bangkok Post -July 30, 2014

Cambodia is expected to discuss the territorial conflict over the Preah Vihear temple with Thailand shortly, Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh said yesterday.

Gen Tea Banh made the announcement at Suvarnabhumi airport after meeting National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) chief Prayuth Chan-ocha at army headquarters.

The Cambodian general said he discussed a wide range of topics with Gen Prayuth at the meeting, but the Preah Vihear issue was not raised.

However, he said relations between the two countries have improved, providing a good opportunity for them to discuss solutions to the dispute soon.

“We should have no problems discussing the issue,” he said.

The International Court of Justice ruled on Nov 11 last year that Cambodia has sovereignty over the whole territory of the promontory of the temple and that Thailand is obliged to withdraw its forces from the area.

But the court did not decide which country has authority over a 4.6 square kilometre disputed area. It said Cambodia and Thailand, as parties to the World Heritage Convention, must work together to protect the World Heritage Site.

Gen Tea Banh arrived in Bangkok on Monday for a two-day visit to discuss bilateral issues with the NCPO. His delegation comprises high-ranking military officers including Lt-Gen Hun Manet, son of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The general used the visit to state that Cambodia will not allow core members of the Thai red shirt movement or those wanted on arrest warrants to hide in Cambodia or use it as a base for their political activities.

At the meeting earlier yesterday, Gen Prayuth told Gen Tea Banh that the NCPO is working to return Thailand to electoral democracy.

The NCPO wants to end conflicts among Thais and prepare the country for the Asean Community next year, Gen Prayuth said.

The army chief also thanked Phnom Penh for the recent release of Thai political activist Veera Somkwamkid.

Gen Prayuth said it will be in the mutual interests of the two countries to jointly develop their border areas to boost tourism and trade.

A NCPO source said the junta will send a delegation of security officials on a visit to Cambodia to strengthen ties between the two countries.

Gen Tea Banh said he understands the need to solve Thailand’s problems, adding that Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, Prime Minister Hun Sen and Cambodian military leaders support the NCPO.

He also thanked the NCPO leader for sending messages of condolences for senior Cambodian military officers who were killed in a recent helicopter crash.

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