Prime Minister Hun Sen confirmed he would meet with Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thugsuban on Saturday but said that he would only listen to the Thai official if he announces Thailand’s withdrawal from the disputed border area surrounding the Preah Vihear temple.
The premier said he does not want to hear Thailand’s explanation about its efforts to have the Khmer temple jointly registered as a heritage site between the two nations, and that he would ignore any discussions by Mr Suthep other than those related to a
“Other explanations I cannot listen to because it was already explained in the media. So, it is not necessary to explain to the Cambodian Prime Minister to understand the Thais’ purpose,” the prime minister said during a speech Thursday at a graduation ceremony at the capital’s National Institute of Education.
“If the explanation confirms the withdrawal of the troops, I will welcome and allow you to explain. I will present myself for you to explain,” the prime minister added.
The weekend meeting between the two leaders comes at the behest of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva who said Monday that he would send Mr Suthep, Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and other government officials for an unofficial visit to clarify Thailand’s position on last year’s Unesco listing of Preah Vihear. The meeting, Mr Abhisit indicated, is also aimed at smooth-
ing any ruffled feathers between the bordering countries.
The Thai premier angered Cambodian officials after he appealed for the World Heritage Committee to review its 2008 decision to register the temple as a World Heritage site during its meeting this week in Spain. Mr Abhisit also sought to have the temple jointly registered under the auspices of both Thailand and Cambodia, a move that Mr Hun Sen and others have indignantly rebuffed.
“We cannot have joint ownership over our separate land. Thai-
land does not allow the registration of the joint ownership of Bangkok with Cambodia,” Mr Hun Sen said in his speech on Thursday.
The premier also said that Thailand is responsible for the armed showdown along the border that is nearing its one-year anniversary.
“The dispute did not happen from the Unesco listing of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site. Rather, it happened from Thailand sending troops to invade Cambodia,” the prime minister said, adding that Cambodian forces would continue to hold their defensive positions along the jungle frontier.
“And the troops at the border listen clearly, the problem at Preah Vihear is not easy to resolve if the situation is still like this. So strengthen your ability to defend our nation and land,” the prime minister continued.
Officials at the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh did not respond to an e-mail and phone calls seeking comment.
Sart Chaivoraphorn, second secretary for the Press Division at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Af-fairs in Bangkok, said by telephone that officials at the ministry were not available for interviews on Thursday.
On Thursday, the Bangkok-based English-language newspaper The Nation published an editorial sharply criticizing Mr Abhisit’s objections over Preah Vihear, calling them “a waste of time.”
The paper, known for its past nationalistic viewpoints in regards to the temple, said his protest is too little, too late since the hilltop temple was given World Heritage status in July.
“Sadly, Thailand’s move to maintain its objection is nothing more than a plan to delay Cambodia’s work, which has only resulted in added tension,” the article read. “Abhisit should really explain what he wants from sticking to his stance, how it would benefit the country and what would happen if his deputy does manage to cool Hun Sen down.”