Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday warned Thai opposition leader and former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva not to embroil Cambodia in Thai politics and derail the improving relations with the current government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Speaking at a ceremony to hand land titles to about 1,200 families in Stung Treng province’s Siem Bok district, Mr. Hun Sen criticized the stance of Mr. Vejjajiva’s Democratic Party on contested land around Preah Vihear temple as well as disputed waters in the Gulf of Thailand.
“I want to protect Cambodia as well as protect good people in Thailand,” he said.
“The benefit that Cambodia had from [former Thai Prime Minister] Thaksin [Shinawatra] and today’s [Thai] government is peace and development along the borders…. If there is a secret benefit, if Abhisit and his team know about it, please reveal it now.”
Mr. Hun Sen appeared to be responding to comments made by Mr. Abhisit in The Bangkok Post on Monday about the two countries dispute over the Preah Vihear temple—which erupted into violence when Mr. Abhisit was in power.
Mr. Abhisit reportedly called for the current Thai government to take a stronger line on the Preah Vihear dispute with Cambodia as April’s public hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) approach.
“I call on the government to issue a statement against Cambodia’s claim [at the ICJ],” Mr. Abhisit was quoted as saying in the Bangkok Post. “To say nothing now would put Thailand at a disadvantage [during the trial].”
Cambodia and Thailand in 2001 signed a memorandum of understanding and agreed to jointly develop 27,000-square-km of maritime space known as the overlapping claims area.
U.S. firm CoconoPhillips, France’s Total and Japan’s Idemitsu have been granted licenses in the area, but work cannot begin until the two countries come to an agreement over the contested waters.
Mr. Hun Sen read from a statement posted on the Council of Ministers’ website, which outlines Cambodia’s already stated claim that Mr. Abhisit’s government—in power between 2008 and 2011—insisted that talks over the competing offshore claims were held in secret.
Mr. Hun Sen said Mr. Abhisit and a representative requested a “behind-the-scenes” meeting in 2009 at Mr. Hun Sen’s home in Kandal province and two other meetings between then-Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An in Hong Kong and Kunming, China, in the same year.
“During the meeting, Suthep strongly expressed their willingness to settle [the overlapping claims] issue before the end of Abhisit’s government,” Mr. Hun Sen said, reading from the statement.
“Cambodia was wondering why Abhisit’s government needed to conduct secret negotiations,” he added.
Mr. Hun Sen said despite the secret meetings, there was no agreement between the two governments, and said that Mr. Abhisit’s government instead made war with Cambodia in the border area with Preah Vihear.
“These days, as politics in Thailand are getting hot, we want to send a message to Abhisit Vejjajiva that they should not connect Cambodia to Thailand’s politics,” he said. “Now, both governments, Cambodia and Thailand…are reconciling the old wounds, but now this group is trying to open the wound again.”
Although talks involving Mr. An and Suradet Jiratiticharoen, chairman of the Thai Senate’s Energy Committee, took place in July, the statement went on to say that Ms. Yingluck’s government has yet to negotiate with Cambodia on the overlapping claims area.