Govt Adviser Blasts Thai Foreign Minister Over Preah Vihear Comment

In a scathing diatribe on Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya’s recent remarks about Cambodia’s management plan for Preah Vihear temple, Council of Ministers adviser Pen Ngoeun called the Thai politician a terrorist and compared his administration to the Nazis.

The caustic words from Mr Ngoeun, a member of the Council of Minister’s press and quick reaction unit, come less than two weeks before the World Heritage Committee–which Cambodia and Thailand both joined last year–is set to discuss a plan for the management of Preah Vihear.

In a statement sent to local media yesterday, Mr Ngoeun picks through remarks the foreign minister made, as reported by the Bangkok Post on Tuesday. And though the statement ends with a note that his remarks do not reflect the Council of Ministers’ stance, they closely mirror the government’s long-standing line on the issue.

According to the Bangkok Post, Mr Kasit said Thailand would oppose Cambodia’s management plan for the 11th-century temple, which was listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008, while “territory nearby remains subject to dispute.” Cambodia and Thailand both claim ownership of a 4.6 square km plot next to the temple along their shared border.

Mirroring Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan’s response to Mr Kasit’s remarks on Wednesday, if in harsher terms, Mr Ngoeun rejected the idea of “overlapping” territorial claims and accused Thailand of basing its claim to Cambodian land on an unrecognized border map.

“Cambodia does not have ‘an overlapping territory’ with Thailand,” he wrote. “There was a claim by Thailand that uses the unilateral map in similar fashion as the Nazis (led by Hitler) and the Fascists (led by Mussolini) for the purpose [of] sending troops to invade and occupy foreign territory.”

He goes on to state: “As a terrorist…turned foreign minister of the [Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva] government, Kasit unmasked Thailand’s cardinal sin of interfering in Cambodian affairs.”

Contacted yesterday afternoon, Mr Ngoeun said he had not seen Cambodia’s management plan for the temple and did not know whether–as claimed in the Bangkok Post article–it included the 4.6 square km disputed zone. Government officials have declined to reveal any details about the plan ahead of the WHC’s meeting in Brazil.

“I feel it is my obligation to bring light to this issue,” Mr Ngoeun said of his statement. “I release this as long as [Thai officials] say something about Cambodia.”

Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi did not reply to an e-mail requesting comment by deadline, and Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn could not be reached.

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