Thailand yesterday accused Cambodian soldiers of providing military training to 39 Thai militants planning to assassinate Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and other Thai officials, according to Thai news reports.
The claims, which were attributed to an official from the Thai Department of Special Investigation, could strike a blow to recent signs of cooperation between the neighbors, which are still locked in a dispute over border territory near Cambodia’s Preah Vihear temple.
Cambodian government officials said yesterday that they had not been able to verify the Thai DSI’s allegations, but dismissed any report that claimed Cambodia had trained foreign militants.
The state-run Thai news Agency MCOT reported yesterday that a DSI inquiry had found that 39 Thai men were trained for arms use in Cambodia in July and August for a mission to assassinate Thailand’s key public figures.
The remarks were apparently made at a news conference held by DSI investigator Lieutenant Colonel Payao Thongsen yesterday regarding last week’s arrest in Chiang Mai of 11 men suspected of involvement in a movement to assassinate government leaders and overthrow the monarchy.
“[Lt] Col Payao affirmed the suspects confessed to being members of the anti-government movement, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship…and that they were 11 among the 39 men who were recruited and taken by red shirt leaders to Cambodia for arms training,” MCOT reported.
“Gen Payao elaborated that the 11 said their three-week training was held in a Cambodian army camp and they were trained by Cambodian soldiers.”
The Nation newspaper added yesterday that the men were trained in Siem Reap province and that the Thai Justice Ministry would ask the Thai Foreign Ministry to help lodge a “complaint against Cambodia for allegedly allowing arms training for red shirt warriors to be held on its ground.”
Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said that if the Thai DSI had indeed made such claims, they would be “completely false.”
“I would ask the Thai side to stop shifting the blame on Cambodia and solve their internal problems themselves,” Mr Kuong said.
Mr Kuong added that Article 53 of the Constitution explicitly forbade Cambodia from interfering in the internal affairs of another country.
“If it is true that these comments were made by the DSI, then we reject them as completely false,” he said.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan rejected the claims outright, saying that Cambodia was committed to fighting terrorism, not aiding it. “We are a civilized nation,” he said.
The commander of RCAF Region 4, which comprises Siem Reap and Preah Vihear provinces, denied yesterday that Thai men had ever received training in his command.
Major General Chea Morn said the Thai reports were nothing but accusations. “There is no such training. No one dares interfere in another country’s affairs,” he said.
Officials at the Thai Embassy could not be reached yesterday, while an official at the Thai Foreign Ministry, who declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the ministry would not comment until the DSI’s statements had been clarified.
Cambodia and Thailand’s icy relationship over disputed border territory near Preah Vihear temple has appeared to have thawed recently, with Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Mr Abhisit pledging a new spirit of cooperation after two recent face-to-face meetings in New York and Brussels.
(Additional reporting by Van Roeun)