Border First, Detente Second, Gov’t Says

If Thailand accepts the Franco-Siamese border treaty of 1907, progress in relations between the two countries can be made, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said yesterday.

Mr Kanharith also said that media reports that Prime Minister Hun Sen had “cursed” Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva were mistranslated.

The remarks followed an announcement by the Thai government on Sunday that Thailand was pursuing unspecified efforts at detente via diplomatic channels.

Speaking to reporters at the Information Ministry in Phnom Penh, Mr Kanharith said the borderlines disputed by Thailand remained an impasse for restoring full diplomatic relations despite recent remarks by Mr Abhisit regarding easing tension along the border.

Bangkok and Phnom Penh mutually recalled their ambassadors in November after fugitive ex-Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was named an advisor to the Cambodian government.

“What about the problem between Cambodia and Thailand? It’s a problem of borders. That’s why the first question we want to ask is whether the Thai government accepts to recognize the treaty of the border demarcation in 1907 or not,” he told reporters, referring to the treaty signed between Siam and France, Cambodia’s former colonial power.

“If the Thais agree to recognize the legitimacy of this treaty, OK, we can go ahead because after that everything is just a technical process,” he continued.

On Sunday, Mr Abhisit said the Thai government was using diplomatic measures to handle the current dispute with neighboring Cambodia in an effort to keep the row from widening.

“We’re trying to prevent the Thai-Cambodian conflict from affecting people living along the border areas of both countries by using diplomatic means while avoiding other measures,” he was quoted as saying in the Bangkok Post.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn could not be reached.

The war of words between the two nations also comes before the discovery of explosives in the capital and the expected verdict in the assets seizure case against Mr Thaksin, who was ousted in a coup in September 2006.

Whatever the outcome of the case, Thai officials are anticipating mass protests by the pro-Thaksin political movement, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorships.

The Bangkok Post reported the court would not postpone the verdict despite the discovery of C4 explosive placed at the Supreme Court on Sunday.

“I don’t think ordinary men would possess these weapons,” the newspaper quoted Mr Abhisit as saying.

During yesterday’s news conference, Mr Kanharith clarified an earlier remark by Prime Minister Hun Sen that he claimed was mistranslated by unnamed media outlets.

While speaking near the disputed Ta Moan temple in Oddar Meanchey province last week, Mr Hun Sen did not “curse” Mr Abhisit but inside “challenged” his Thai counterpart, Mr Kanharith said.

“Hun Sen had no intention to curse anybody,” he said.

During his Feb 8 speech Mr Hun Sen said: “Now does Abhisit dare to swear? Swear on the death of his whole family, swear on the destruction of the whole country, whether Thai soldiers invaded Cambodian territory on July 15, 2008, or not.”

Thai newspaper The Nation characterized these remarks as putting “a curse on Abhisit.”

Mr Kanharith said the government of Cambodia was still considering whether bring action before the International Court of Justice against Thailand after Mr Hun Sen said contacting the court might be necessary to end the dispute.

The world court ruled in favor of Cambodia in 1962, deciding that Preah Vihear temple lay on Cambodian soil.

“Thaksin’s government accepted the border between Cambodia and Thailand but for Abhisit’s government the Thai people did not know where is the border,” Mr Kanharith said.

“After Thailand lost at the ICJ in 1962, Thailand began to draw a personal map to get 4.6-square-kilometer from Cambodia and even Abhisit as the appointed premier did not know where is a border.”

 

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