No Word on Bilateral Discussions Over Preah Vihear

The Foreign Ministry said yesterday that it had not yet received any communications from Thailand about the possibility of a bilateral discussion on disputed border territory near Preah Vihear temple.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was quoted in Thai newspapers yesterday as saying he would not send Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban to Cambodia for talks about the temple until Cambodia showed interest in bilateral discussions.

Mr Abhisit’s comments came despite Prime Minister Hun Sen’s public remarks on Wednesday that the best way forward for the two countries was through bilateral dialogue, and after Mr Suthep had publicly volunteered to meet Mr Hun Sen to discuss the border dispute.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday that Mr Abhisit was playing political games through the media by bringing the temple into a debate that should be about the border.

“Mr Abhisit always wants to talk about the Preah Vihear temple, but the issue of the temple has been solved since 1962,” when it was ruled Cambodian by the International Court of Justice, Mr Kuong said.

“This is a border issue, not an issue about the temple. [Mr Abhisit] is trying to mislead the public opinion about this case.”

Mr Kuong said Cambodia had not received any official communications from Bangkok regarding the dispute. “Right now, there is no official information sent by Thailand or Cambodia,” he said.

Officials at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to answer questions about the Preah Vihear border dispute yesterday.

The latest flare-up between the two nations over Preah Vihear temple began last week during a World Heritage Committee meeting in Brazil, where Cambodia’s management plan for the temple was submitted. Objecting to the plan because it believed that it would infringe on a 4.6-square-km parcel of disputed border territory, Thailand threatened to withdraw from the World Heritage Committee.

Both countries eventually claimed victory after signing a “compromise draft decision” that acknowledged Cambodia’s work conserving the World Heritage-listed temple and noted that the committee would discuss Cambodia’s temple management plan at next year’s meeting in Bahrain.

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