Prime Minister Hun Sen, Thai Prime Minister Agree To Avoid Conflict

Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat agreed Oct 24 there should be no more fighting at the border and that bilateral negotiations will resume as soon as the Thai government gets the green light from the Thai Parliament, of­ficials said Sunday.

Hun Sen made four propositions to Somchai when they met Friday on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe summit in Beijing, Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong said at a news conference upon Hun Sen’s return at Phnom Penh Internation­al Airport on Sunday.

Hun Sen’s first proposal was to avoid any more fighting at the border, to which Somchai agreed, Hor Namhong said. On Oct 15, fighting near Preah Vihear temple, where Thai and Cambodian troops have faced off for more than three months, killed three RCAF troops and one Thai soldier.

“Nov 10, both border committees plan to meet because on Tuesday, the Thai [government] will bring the report about what both [Thai and Cambodian] Foreign Affairs ministers have agreed to…to the Thai Assembly,” Hor Namhong said. “After that, the [Joint Border Committee] will meet and Foreign Affairs ministers plan to meet.”

Thai officials have previously said that under Thailand’s constitution, they were unable to make commitments in bilateral meetings with Cambodia until the Thai legislature approved a negotiating framework. The Thai   House of Repre­sen­ta­tives is scheduled to discuss the matter Tuesday.

Commerce Minister Cham Pra­sidh, also present at the airport, said negotiations between the two countries could start as soon as this week.

Hor Namhong said Hun Sen also asked that all mechanisms be used to resolve the border issue peacefully, that Thailand and Cam­bodia continue to cooperate in all do­mains, and that the countries’ co­operation with regional neighbors including Laos, Burma and Vietnam also con­tinue to develop.

Meanwhile, Cambodia has complained to Unesco about damage done by Thai grenades to the Preah Vihear temple, a World Her­i­tage Site, during the Oct 15 fighting, Council of Ministers spokes­man Phay Si­phan confirmed Oct 26.

The standoff hampers preservation and development of the temple, and Unesco has an obligation to take care of the site, Phay Siphan said by telephone Oct 26. Unesco officials are scheduled to visit the site before the end of the year, and they will set up a sign “so the Thai side understand this is a World Heritage Site,” he added.

Unesco officials could not be reached for comment Oct 26.

Cham Prasidh said the confrontation hadn’t affected Cam­bo­dian business and claimed that Thailand stood to lose more from a prolonged standoff.

“[I]n 2007, Thailand exported to Cambodia around $1.4 billion, but Cambodia exported to Thailand $40 million,” Cham Prasidh said. “If we close [our border] with Thai­land, we have other partners, such as Vietnam and China.”

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