Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday that relations with Thailand had returned to normal as a tense military standoff with the neighboring country had been “solved.”
“The situation has eased,” the premier said in an address to a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh.
“I don’t want to make a public announcement, but I can say that the problem is solved,” he said. “The situation has returned to what it was like before July 15, 2008.”
A military border standoff began that day after police arrested three Thai protesters who crossed into Cambodia, angered by Cambodia’s successful inscription of Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site. Thai and Cambodian soldiers have fought numerous skirmishes along the border since.
Thai officials were unavailable yesterday but Mr Hun Sen conceded that issues remained to be ironed out, including the final demarcation of the countries’ shared border.
“It is not all finished,” Mr Hun Sen said. “There are still the problems of demarcation and demining, and opening the border gate to stimulate cooperation.”
Even so, the premier insisted that relations were on the mend.
“I can say that relations are coming back, and on Dec 19, the anniversary of diplomatic relations between Cambodia and Thailand, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya will come to participate in Phnom Penh,” he said. “So the problem is over.”
The premier did not explain how this had occurred but noted that he had met on four recent occasions with Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan later attributed the comment to Thailand’s “new arrangement of military deployment,” referring to the reported redeployment of Thai troops near Preah Vihear temple.
On Dec 1, the director-general of the Preah Vihear Authority, Hang Soth, said five unarmed Thai soldiers had recently moved from Wat Keosekha Kirisvarak to the base of the temple’s great staircase-and closer to the Thai border in the process.
That day, however, Thailand’s National News Bureau issued a statement insisting “that no troops have been pulled out from the Preah Vihear temple area” and that the troops would stay put until the border had been fully demarcated.
Thai lawmakers have yet to ratify the results of joint border talks with Cambodia.