Border Commission Announces Breakthrough

Demarcation of the Thai-Cambodian border around the Preah Vihear temple will begin in July, the Joint Border Commission agreed Tuesday.

The two-day session of the commission, tasked with drawing the boundary line, ended with champagne and the signature of three draft documents that had so far been contentious. The popping of corks came just four days after a bloody border clash be-

tween the two countries near Preah Vihear temple.

“It was successful because both sides have agreed to set demarcation posts in May in Oddar Meanchey province [ar-

ound Anlong Veng] and in the Preah Vihear temple area in July,” Var Kim Hong, the Cambodian co-chairman of the JBC, said at a joint news conference.

He and his Thai counterpart, Vasin Teeravechyan, signed the agreed minutes of this and the past two meetings of the JBC, but all three documents still need to be approved by the foreign affairs ministers of each country. The Thai constitution also requires the documents to be approved by the Thai legislature.

The JBC also set the final location of 29 border posts in non-contentious zones, is nearing agreement on 19 more, and concluded talks on producing photographic maps of the entire border, according to a draft statement from the Thai delegation.

“Therefore, there remains only one pending issue to be further discussed, which is the appellation of the Temple of Phra Viharn,” the Thai statement read, using the Thai name for the temple—a contentious issue at the meeting.

Thailand has insisted on using Phra Viharn, the Thai name for Preah Vihear temple, a stipulation Cambodia has roundly rejected.

On Tuesday, the negotiators circumvented the name issue, which had prevented documents from being signed in past meetings, by temporarily using the expression “Preah Vihear [Phra Viharn],” Var Kim Hong said. It will be up to political leaders, rather than technocrats, to decide on a final formulation, he added.

“After the incident that took place along the border, Thailand wanted to look for a reasonable way to resolve the issue at the joint JBC meeting right now,” which is why Thailand did not oppose the use of the Khmer name first, Vasin Teeravechyan said through a translator.

The relative success of the meeting brought a bit of ap-

peasement to an otherwise tense border situation.

Council of Ministers spokes-

man Phay Siphan said the government was “concerned” after Thailand had positioned tanks, surface-to-air missiles and eight artillery pieces near the border, about 4 to 5 km from Preah Vihear temple.

“It’s hostile to Cambodian security, especially to the troops stationed on the field,” he said.

Phay Siphan also described the Thai government as in a “state of panic” over protests in Bangkok and desperately trying to demonstrate its patriotism to its own people.

“Their problem is the red shirts, not the Cambodian military that is stationed peacefully on our land,” he said, referring to Thai opposition protestors.

“They should pay attention that they don’t take Preah Vihear and the region as a hostage for their own political motivations,” he said.

Preah Vihear Provincial Governor Preap Tann said Thai troops had once again moved close to Veal Entry, or Eagle Field, on Tuesday. A Thai move into Veal Entry reportedly precipitated the rocket and mach-

ine-gun fire exchanged by the two sides on Friday.

“We have a right to defend ourselves,” he added.

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