Cambodian officials released few details about Saturday’s informal meeting between Prime Minister Hun Sen and Deputy Thai Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, in which the pair was slated to discuss the ongoing border dispute at Preah Vihear.
The meeting came at the behest of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who sent his deputy premier along with Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwon to smooth out any wrinkles with their Cambodian counterparts after Mr Abhisit requested that Unesco reconsider the listing of the 11th century temple as a World Heritage Site under the auspices of Cambodia.
His remarks angered Cambodian officials and renewed worries of more armed clashes at the border.
On Thursday, Mr Hun Sen said he would meet with the Thai officials, but only if they announced that Thailand would be withdrawing its forces stationed along the cliff-top frontier. It was unclear Sunday if any such military pullout was discussed.
However, according to media reports from Thailand, Thai officials walked away from the meeting with an optimistic outlook on the otherwise taut situation. Mr Suthep was quoted saying that the two nations would work to ease friction and hostility.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen asked me to convey the message to our Prime Minister Abhisit [Vejjajiva] and the Thai people that Cambodia will try to reduce tensions [along the border] to assist economic cooperation between the two countries,” the Agence-France Presse news service quoted Mr Suthep as saying in Thailand.
“We should let bygones be bygones, forget the nightmare of the past and look forward to a positive future for both countries,” the AFP reported him saying.
Srey Thamarong, adviser to Mr Hun Sen, could not be reached for comment Sunday and Eang Sophalleth, cabinet spokesman for the premier, said he did not participate in the meeting and declined to comment.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan could not be contacted by telephone and government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith referred questions to the premier’s cabinet staff.
Cambodian officials did confirm on Sunday they were planning a celebration to mark the ancient Hindu temple’s designation as a Heritage Site. Last week, the premier called upon all schools and pagodas to bang drums and ring bells at 11 am on July 7 to commemorate the dedication. Bayon TV, which is owned by the premier, is also preparing a live broadcast from Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium that will involve soldiers posted at Preah Vihear and popular singer Meng Keo Pichenda. The five-hour broadcast will feature images of the ruins, songs and performances from actors.
RCAF Division 3 Commander Major General Srey Dek, who is stationed at the temple, said he would travel to the capital and take part in the scheduled broadcast. He added that the situation remained stable at the border Sunday.
“I welcome that for one year our temple was listed as a World Heritage Site, and I promise to defend our territory and sovereignty,” he said.
Spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Koy Kuong, said he knew few details about the private lunchtime meeting hosted by the premier at his Kandal province residence, but felt that whatever the outcome, the rapport between the neighboring nations remained the same.
“I think the relationship between Cambodia and Thailand is normal,” he said Sunday.
He added it was too soon to tell whether the upcoming celebration of the one-year anniversary of the Khmer temple’s inscription as a World Heritage site would enflame Cambodia’s relationship with Thailand.
“Now we cannot judge. The leaders are trying to compromise,” he said.