Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday warned the UN Security Council and General Assembly that Thailand had threatened Cambodia with military aggression and called on the nations of the world to take notice.
An apparent reaction to a brief account published Saturday in a Thai newspaper, the two letters from Mr Hun Sen accused Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of threatening the use of “both diplomatic and military” means to bolster Thailand’s position in a dispute over a 2000 border agreement.
It was unclear yesterday what action Cambodia was seeking to take before the Security Council. The government in 2008 suspended action before the world body, charged with maintaining international peace and security, in an effort to achieve bilateral resolution to the military standoff at the Preah Vihear temple.
The action marked a reversal of the conciliatory words Mr Hun Spoke on Aug 4 when he delivered a speech saying the dispute should be resolved bilaterally. However the action before the UN came after two weeks of feuding between the two neighbors over both Cambodia’s management of the World Heritage Listed temple.
In a brief article published on the website of The Nation, Mr Abhisit was quoted as saying that Thailand would consider canceling a 2000 memorandum of understanding, which called for joint development of disputed border zones, if bilateral talks failed.
“About the land encroachment, we will cancel the MOU if the problem can’t be settled. We will use both democratic and military means,” The Nation quoted Mr Abhisit as saying.
Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry condemned the remarks on Saturday. Yesterday’s letters, marked “very urgent,” were addressed to the Russia’s UN Envoy Vitaly Churkin, the current Security Council president, and to Ali Abdussalam Treki, the Libyan president of the General Assembly.
In the letters, Mr Hun Sen said Mr Abhisit’s words constituted both “an obvious threat to cancel unilaterally a legal document” and “a clear threat to use military force to settle the problem of demarcation of the border.”
Thailand had violated the UN Charter by :seriously threatening the use of military force against Cambodia,” Mr Hun Sen said.
“Cambodia, for its part, reaffirms its constant policy not to use armed forces to settle any problem with neighboring countries. Cambodia, nonetheless, reserves its legitimate rights to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity in case of deliberate acts of aggression.”
Thai government spokesman Panitan Watanayagorn said last night that he could not comment on Mr Hun Sen’s letter because he had not seen it and could not verify its content.
“If they want to send a letter to any international organization, it is up to Cambodia,” he said.
Asked whether Thailand was considering withdrawing from the 2000 MoU, Mr Panitan said he could not make direct comments about any international agreement.
In a statement released by the Thai yesterday, Mr Abhisit was quoted as saying that the 2000 MoU was still beneficial to Thailand, suggesting that Thai premier had not been as bellicose as the article The Nation had claimed.
“Prime Minister Abhisit [said] that the MoU was helpful in that it prevented Cambodia from presenting its map to the World Heritage Committee (WHC) owing to the incompletion of the border demarcation,” the statement said.
“As for news reports of Cambodians encroaching the disputed zone, the Prime Minister said both diplomatic and military measures had been used. He said mostly Thailand would rather use peaceful means to protect its rights and sovereignty although clashes occurred sometimes.”
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday confirmed that the letter was in response to words attributed to Mr Abhisit in the news media and said that Mr Hun Sen’s letter was simply designed to inform all members of the UN about Mr Abhisit’s remarks.
Mr Siphan said that while Thailand did not appear to want to sit down and discuss the sensitive border issue, Cambodia was still willing to engage on good terms.
“Mr Abhisit has the responsibility to be accountable to his people,” Mr Siphan said.
Deputy Prime Minister Sok An returned from last week’s World Heritage Committee in Brazil on Saturday and repeated the government’s previous remarks that Cambodia would move forward with its conservation of Preah Vihear temple, despite Thai claims that they had stalled the Cambodian management plan from moving forward.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” he said. “We have more plans to conserve and develop the temple.”
Major General Srey Dek, commander of RCAF division 3, said yesterday that the level of Thai troops at the border remained unchanged and that the situation was calm. He claimed there were still about 6,000 Thai troops in the area, about 2,000 more than usual.
Reacting to a brief news media account in March, Prime Minister Hun Sen lashed out at Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan, saying reported statements he had made about the test-firing of rockets by RCAF made him “unsuitable” to lead the regional body.
Mr Surin responded, apologizing but saying his remarks had been taken out of context.