PM Blames Thai Military In Border Tiff

Prime Minister Hun Sen wrote in a letter to National Assembly President Heng Samrin that Thailand’s military, not the Thai government, was stirring up the ongoing border dispute near Preah Vihear temple, according to a copy of the letter obtained Tuesday.

“Regarding the listing of the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site, the stance of the Thai government was the opposite of their military’s stance,” Hun Sen wrote in the seven-page letter.

Thailand’s armed forces and Defense Ministry took a harder line than its government, he added.

The letter to Heng Samrin, dated Jan 12, was in response to a request by SRP lawmaker Son Chhay that Hun Sen explain himself to the National Assembly on the military standoff. Hun Sen has since then, in a Jan 20 speech, said he would address the Assembly in person because the opposition wasn’t satisfied with written statements.

Werachon Sukondhapatipak, deputy spokesman of the Thai military, refuted Hun Sen’s accusations.

“In Thailand, we would do anything to fulfill our mission to maintain the country’s sovereignty,” he said by telephone, but added that “every action, every step is driven by government policy.”

“We are doing our best not to do anything that would lead to violence, try to prevent conflict from escalation into war,” he added.

Hun Sen also argued in his letter that the six-month dispute had not been dragging on.

“Based on the royal government’s effort, we could not say that there is a delay in pushing Thai troops to withdraw from Cambo-dian territory…. The international community has urged for bilateral cooperation in an attempt to have Thailand pull herself out of the problem with dignity, but Thailand’s aggressiveness has seriously damaged her standing among the international community,” he wrote.

Thai-Cambodian relations looked on the mend Monday during Thai Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya’s visit to Phnom Penh. The Thai ministry issued a statement saying Kasit had been “warmly welcomed” and invited King Norodom Sihamoni to make a state visit to Thailand.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the letter satisfied Hun Sen’s legal obligations to the assembly. Son Chhay could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

 

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