Artifacts, Border Top Agenda for Thai PM

During his three-day visit to Cambodia that begins today, Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai will finalize agreements intended to ease sore spots between the two countries, including the trafficking of artifacts and border disputes.

Chuan is scheduled to arrive at Pochentong Airport this morning where he will be greeted by Prime Minister Hun Sen. Today he will meet King Norodom Sihanouk for lunch then meet privately at the Council of Ministers with Hun Sen, Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong, Minister of the Council of Ministers Sok An and Ung Sean, Cambodia’s ambassador to Thailand.

After the meeting he and Hun Sen will oversee the signing of agreements to combat cross-border trafficking of artifacts and to cooperate in returning stolen vehicles smuggled in and out of Cambodia, a Foreign Affairs Ministry statement said.

A memorandum of understanding on the surveying and demarcation of the boundary between Thailand and Cambodia also will be signed. This has been one of the biggest issues facing Thai-Cambodian relations in recent months.

There have been dustups over the building of a casino in Poipet, which the Thais say is altering the border, and there have been several tense border standoffs this year between RCAF and Thai soldiers. Provincial and RCAF officials have blamed most of the disputes on the Thais, saying soldiers entered Cambodian territory and set up checkpoints.

Both sides blame the problems on poorly defined border markings along the 1,300 km frontier.

At a meeting last week, Thai and Cambodian officials agreed to begin surveying and marking the border. The two sides still have to work out the technical details of the project. The surveying could begin within the year.

Cambodian students plan to protest against the border disputes during Chuan’s visit.

Um Sam An, secretary general of the Student Movement for Demo­cracy, said thousands of students will gather outside of Phnom Penh University today and burn a Thai flag, protesting Thai incursions into Cambodia.

The stolen vehicle issue also came to a head this year when a dispute in May over a allegedly-stolen truck being brought into Cambodia ended in gunfire between RCAF and Thai soldiers. No one was injured.

The most recent Thai-Cam­bodian point of tension involves the newly built Thai Embassy and the dirt road alongside it. Earlier this month, City Governor Chea Sophara ordered the closing of the road, saying it was Thai property. People who use the road for village access protested the closing and clashed with police.

Cambodia and Thailand also have been wrangling over Sok Yeoun. Accused by the government of trying to assassinate Hun Sen with a 1998 rocket attack in Siem Reap, the Sam Rainsy Party member has been in a Thai jail since his arrest six months ago.

Cambodia has been asking for his extradition for prosecution. Thai officials said they are waiting on the Cambodian government’s evidence showing Sok Yeoun participated in the attack. If Thailand refuses extradition, Sok Yeoun is expected to get refuge in a third country. The two countries have no extradition treaty.

Chuan will be meeting with several other Cambodian officials, including Senate President Chea Sim, National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh before he leaves Friday for Siem Reap and a tour of the temples.

While Chuan is in Cambodia, a delegation from the ministries of Interior and Tourism will be in Thailand for a conference on policing and managing tourist spots.

(Additional reporting by Saing Soenthrith)

 

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