Officials: Little Progress Made at Border Talks

Thai and Cambodian military personnel emerged from two days of border talks in Siem Reap town on Oct 24 with a general agreement to reduce troop levels but little else, officials said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai premier Somchai Wongsawat also met Oct 24 on the margins of the Asia-Europe Meeting in Beijing for brief discussions concerning the Oct 15 clash near Preah Vihear temple, which left three Cambodians and a Thai soldier dead.

RCAF Region 4 Commander Chea Morn said following Friday’s two-hour talks that both sides had agreed to reduce troop levels at the border but had not agreed on precise numbers.

“It’s finished and we’ve just agreed to reduce tension at the border and not to have any problems again,” Chea Morn said by telephone from Siem Reap.

“The first success is the troop reduction to avoid having clashes again,” he said.

Talks on Oct 23 neared deadlock after Thai negotiators refused to discuss troop redeployment and disagreed on the creation of a joint demining committee.

Chea Morn said Oct 24 that no date had been set for talks to resume. However, in a statement to the press, he said both sides had applauded efforts to maintain peace at the Ta Moan and Ta Krabey temples and had agreed to strengthen efforts to combat cross-border crime.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said OCt 24 that the Thai side had said they were prevented from making commitments without the consent of Thai lawmakers.

Former Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama was forced to resign in July after a Thai court ruled that he had unconstitutionally negotiated with Cambodia without consulting Thai legislators.

“The obstacle was that they could not agree. They have to go through the Thai parliament,” Phay Siphan said. “So the militaries talked about trade and preventing more fighting.”

Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said Friday that both houses of the Thai parliament are scheduled on Tuesday to discuss approving a framework for negotiations on the demarcation of the border in heavily mined areas.

“The House of Representatives and the Senate will convene to discuss the negotiation framework this 28th of the October. With the approval of parliament, they’ll start negotiations,” he said, adding that his ministry was still awaiting a briefing on the outcome of the talks in Siem Reap.

In an aide-memoire sent on Oct 21, the Thai Foreign Ministry called for the withdrawal of Cambodian troops from the Pteah Roum Chet area near the juncture of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, where the ministry said the border has yet to be demarcated.

“[T]he ministry has the honor to express its concern over the unnecessary tension caused by such deployment of troops by Cambodia,” the aide-memoire said.

In a response made public Oct 24, the Cambodian Foreign Ministry said that Pteah Roum Chet is on Cambodian soil.

“Cambodia remains fully committed not to encroach on any inch of Thai territory and would be very pleased if Thailand would respond by the same commitment, pending the demarcation of the border,” the ministry said in a letter dated Oct 24.

Speaking to reporters in Beijing, Thai Foreign Affairs Minister Sompong Amornvivat said Hun Sen and Somchai had agreed that the Oct 15 border clash had been regrettable, according to Reuters.

“When things come to this point, the two sides have to advise our troops not to have confrontation any longer,” Sompong was quoted as saying.

  (Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)


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