Thai premier reportedly warns against relying on news reports when discussing sensitive issues
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has warned Prime Minister Hun Sen to be careful about how he interprets information he receives through the media, a Thai newspaper reported Friday.
“Mr Abhisit said Hun Sen should be careful about interpreting information on such sensitive issues through the media,” according to English-language newspaper The Bangkok Post.
The report, though unsubstantiated by a quote, marked a continuation in the war of words between the two leaders that began in late July when Cambodia submitted a management plan for the Preah Vihear temple to the World Heritage Committee during an annual meeting in Brazil.
Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said Friday that Mr Abhisit had merely raised concerns over the accuracy of the reporting of his words in “certain news media” in Thailand.
“Our Prime Minister is concerned that if everybody listens to the reports in the newspaper…it might be misunderstood,” he said by telephone from Bangkok.
Mr Panitan declined to comment on remarks that Mr Hun Sen made Thursday, saying that Mr Abhisit had avoided taking responsibility for his comments that directly quoted him as threatening military action over the border dispute.
On Sunday Mr Hun Sen warned the UN Security Council and General Assembly that Thai media had quoted Mr Abhisit’s desire to use military force at the border area. Almost immediately afterwards Mr Abhisit delivered his own letter to the UN denying Mr Hun Sen’s claims that he had threatened to use military force to solve the issue.
Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said on Friday that Mr Abhisit should concentrate more fully on establishing robust links with the media rather than criticizing it for a lack of accuracy.
“They have to work very closely with the media because they have to provide information to the public in an honest way,” he said.
The Bangkok Post also reported on Friday that Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya had established a new working group designed to accurately disseminate information on all matters to do with the border dispute and Preah Vihear temple.
Pavin Chachavalpongpun, lead researcher for political and strategic affairs at the Asean Studies Center, said the decision was a direct result of Mr Abhisit’s claims that he had been misquoted on matters resolving the border dispute with Cambodia.
“I believe it is a part of damage control,” Mr Pavin said. “The government should have done this long before but the recent incident compelled those in power to be more careful when it comes to releasing public statements.”
“In the past, the government did not really have a unified stance in regards to the Preah Vihear. While the prime minister said one thing, the foreign minister said the other. This working group would allow them to work in unison,” he added.
Mr Pavin said the ongoing tit for tat being exchanged between the two leaders are stoked in nationalist sentiment and, therefore, impeding on their ability to make measured decisions regarding the issue.
“[T]he reactions from the leaders of both sides are unacceptable, although I think they are understandable,” he said. “The issue has been tied closely with domestic politics, especially on the part of Thailand.”
Defense Minister Tea Banh said on Friday that the general border committee meeting scheduled for the end of this month had been cancelled by Thailand.
“The Thai party requested to delay the meeting and they will give us news on the next meeting,” he said.
The general border committee is designed so that both governments can convene in order to demarcate the border line between the two countries.
Mr Panitan said that the Thai part of the committee would reconvene a meeting soon, though he was unaware as to why the meeting had been canceled.
Officials at the border late Friday said the situation was peaceful.
(Additional reporting by Khy Sovuthy)