Border negotiations between Thailand and Cambodia were again caught in the middle of Thailand’s internal political disputes Saturday as a former foreign minister called on the new government to make good on its promises to take back disputed territory from Cambodia.
Former Thai Foreign Affairs Minister Noppadon Pattama, as quoted in the Bangkok Post newspaper, said new Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva should demand that Cambodia either return the disputed land around the Preah Vihear temple to Thailand or pay rent on it.
But Noppadon’s controversial demands seem based less on his convictions than on his resentment at having been forced out of office by Abhisit and his allies in July who attacked the then-foreign minister for having supported Cambodia’s bid to list Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site.
“Mr Abhisit and his government should be given the chance to work. But be warned that the efforts to encourage reconciliation will never materialize if the prime minister is something of a hypocrite,” the Bangkok Post quoted Noppadon as saying.
Abhisit led the charge in criticizing the previous government’s stance on the border dispute with Cambodia, saying it was too conciliatory and was giving up Thai land to Cambodia.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he did not have a strong reaction to Noppadon’s challenge to the new government regarding Preah Vihear, adding Thailand should not involve the Cambodian temple in its internal problems.
“The international community and organizations accepted long ago that the Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia,” Phay Siphan said, referring to the 1962 International Court of Justice decision that recognized Cambodia’s ownership of the temple.
“And I think it’s a Thai daydream that they will get it back,” he said.
New Thai Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya, who took office last week, is also under fire for his similar stance on Preah Vihear and for having supported the People’s Alliance for Democracy protests, for which he issued a formal apology last week.
Kasit also said in remarks to Thailand’s The Nation newspaper on Friday that-despite the PAD’s stance-he would not demand that Preah Vihear be returned to Thailand.
Noppadon also told the Bangkok Post that Abhisit and Kasit can expect a tough debate today and Tuesday, when the Thai parliament is scheduled to examine the new government’s proposed foreign policy, an indispensable step under the Thai constitution before border talks can resume with Cambodia.
Virachai Plasai, the Thai Foreign Ministry’s lead lawyer in negotiations with Cambodia, and Buranaj Smutharak, spokesman of Abhisit’s Democrat Party, could not be reached for comment Sunday.