Thai Foreign Minister Offers Hope for Stalled Border Talks

Thailand’s foreign minister said yesterday that a special committee examining the records of the Joint Border Committee, which is charged with negotiating a settlement to the country’s border dispute with Cambodia, could wrap up its work within 10 days.

Kasit Piromya was asked about the status of the committee during a break in a meeting of regional prime ministers taking place in Phnom Penh.

“On the border issue with Cambodia, I think it’s with the committee of the parliament, so they still have about another 10 days to deliberate,” he said.

On Nov 2, the Thai Parliament voted to create a committee to review records from three previous meetings of the JBC before sending them back to Parliament with their recommendations. That same day, more than 1,000 Thai “yellow shirt” supporters of the People’s Alliance for Democracy protested in front of the Parliament against endorsement of the records.

Negotiations on the dispute-which centers around an area near Preah Vihear temple where Thai and Cambodian troops have clashed sporadically since 2008–cannot resume until Parliament ratifies the records.

According to the Thai Foreign Ministry, Parliament received the JBC records a year ago but deferred endorsing them twice since then because lawmakers “had other matters on their agenda.”

Last month, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Prime Minister Hun Sen had personally asked his Thai counterpart, Abhisit Vejjajiva, to urge Parliament to approve the records.

Border committee chief Var Kimhong, who also chairs the JBC, declined to comment on the special committee because he had yet to be told about it by Thailand.

“I wait until the official communication from the Thai side,” he said yesterday.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he could not comment on Mr Kasit’s statement because he was away from Phnom Penh and had not heard the news. But in general, he said, “anything that moves forward approval of the report, we support.”

Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong could not be reached for comment.

(Additional reporting by Clancy McGilligan)



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