Gov’t Denies Thai Media Report on Border Dispute

A government official yesterday denied a Thai media report stating that Prime Minister Hun Sen would allow the Thai-Cambodia border at Preah Vihear temple to open “after the New Year.”

Thai newspaper the Bangkok Post reported yesterday that Mr Hun Sen had told Thai army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha about the government’s decision in Phnom Penh and that he had also requested Thailand to open its border.

“The prime minister has not mentioned this,” said Tith Sothea, spokesman for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit inside the Council of Ministers, referring to comments apparently made to Gen Prayuth by Mr Hun Sen yesterday.

According to the Bangkok Post Mr Hun Sen said: “Since we are neighbors and cannot move away from each other, we should cooperate and stay together in peace.”

“Thailand and Cambodia are like a tongue and teeth which must be in contact. It is not right that the teeth must be removed if the tongue is bitten.”

Eang Sophalleth, assistant to the premier, said he was unaware that Mr Hun Sen had given his permission to open the border sometime after the New Year when talking to Gen Prayuth.

Government officials said earlier this month that plans to open the border had been postponed because of excessive Thai requests, which included dividing ticket sales for the temple between Thai and Cambodian authorities.

The border crossing near Preah Vihear temple has been closed since June 2008, when fighting erupted around the 11th-century temple.

Hang Soth, deputy director of the Preah Vihear National Authority, said yesterday he had not received any orders regarding the opening of the border at the temple.

“The Authority does not know anything about this,” he said.

On Monday, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya met with Prime Minister Hun Sen and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in Phnom Penh to mark 60 years of bilateral relations between Thailand and Cambodia.

Just hours before the meeting, Siem Reap Provincial Court released three Thai prisoners convicted of illegally entering Cambodia. Officials said the release could be considered a gesture of goodwill toward its neighbor.

Most Thai and Cambodian troops were withdrawn from their positions around the World Heritage-listed Preah Vihear temple on Dec 1.

Border negotiations between the two countries have stalled over the past year, with Cambodian officials saying that a new Joint Border Committee cannot be held until the Thai Parliament ratifies previous meeting on the demarcation of the border, which it has so far put off doing.


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