Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has claimed he was misquoted in the newspaper story that led to the latest escalation in tension between Thailand and Cambodia, according to a Thai news report.
Prime Minister Hun Sen informed the UN Security Council and General Assembly on Sunday that Mr Abhisit had been quoted in Thai media threatening military force in a dispute of border territory near the World Heritage-listed Preah Vihear temple.
Mr Hun Sen’s letters to the UN cited a direct quote attributed to Mr Abhisit by the Bangkok-based Nation newspaper on Saturday.
In a story also published by the Nation newspaper yesterday, however, Mr Abhisit said Mr Hun Sen’s letters to the UN were based on incorrect information. “[Hun Sen]…quotes a sentence from a newspaper report, which are not my exact words,” the Nation quoted Mr Abhisit as saying.
But Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday that even if Mr Abhisit was misquoted, it did not change Cambodia’s position that it had the right to inform the UN.
“Misquote or not, there has been a military build up along the border near Preah Vihear,” Mr Siphan said, in reference to Cambodian military claims that there were 2,000 extra Thai troops stationed near the disputed border area.
“Mr Abhisit was quoted [previously]…saying Thailand was ready to deploy more troops to the border. He manipulates his words with the media…and he now has to take responsibility and be accountable.”
An assistant to Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said yesterday that the government would not be able to provide answers to a reporter’s questions because the Thai Cabinet was sitting.
Statements released by the Thai government’s public relations department yesterday confirmed that a letter was being drafted to counter Cambodia’s claims to the UN and that the Thai government was keen to avoid military conflict over the border dispute.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working closely with the Royal Thai Army in an effort to avoid clashes near the disputed territory and possible losses, which would jeopardize Thailand’s image,” one statement said.
General Chea Dara, RCAF deputy commander-in-chief, said yesterday that the situation at the border near Preah Vihear was “normal.”
(Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha)