Prime Minister Hun Sen met his Thai counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva at an Asean summit in Hanoi this weekend where they held bilateral talks on border issues, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said yesterday. The minister stressed that the two leaders did not discuss reported claims that wanted Thai “red shirt” leaders were in Cambodia.
Mr Namhong strongly denied Thai media reports claiming the Thai government had received assurances from the Cambodian government that it would cooperate to find out if red shirt commander Arisman Pongruengrong and other wanted red shirt leaders had fled to Cambodia.
“Abhisit did not raise this issue. Abhisit did not raise even a word” during the bilateral meeting, he told reporters at a press conference at Phnom Penh International Airport.
Thai news agency MCOT and newspaper The Bangkok Post reported Friday that Mr Hun Sen had met Mr Abhisit on the sidelines of the Asean meeting Thursday, where Mr Hun Sen had agreed to investigate claims that red shirt leaders were in Cambodia.
The paper had claimed earlier last week that red shirt commander Mr Arisman was hiding in Siem Reap province.
Mr Namhong said none of the 11 red shirt leaders wanted in Thailand were within Cambodian borders. “We don’t have Arisman in Cambodia, and this is for real. All the 11 red shirt leaders are not here either,” he said.
The foreign minister said discussions between the two leaders had instead focused on removing troops from positions around Preah Vihear temple and the possible ratification of the minutes of the Joint Border Committee meetings by the Thai parliament this week.
“They talked about the relationship of the two countries, the problem of removing Thai soldiers from Wat Keo Sekha Kiri Svarak,” he said referring to the pagoda located along the mountain road to the temple, which has been occupied by Thai troops since the first border skirmishes in 2008.
“Especially [they talked] about the Tuesday meeting of the Thai parliament to ratify” minutes of the JBC meetings, Mr Namhong said.
Thai media reported the Thai parliament would deliberate the minutes Tuesday and that the People’s Alliance for Democracy party has announced it will stage a rally in front of parliament to oppose ratification of the minutes.
Var Kimhong, chairman of the Border Commission, said this ratification process has so far stalled at Thai parliament, and he explained that acknowledging these minutes would help relieve the tension between the two countries so that further border talks could proceed.
“The ratification has yet to take place,” he said, “It is important for border demarcation and other affairs. We should make the demarcation so that there will be no pretext [for claiming] that the soldiers are on one another’s land.”
Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn could not be reached for comment yesterday.
(Additional reporting by Paul Vrieze)