Thai Gov’t Denies Accusing Cambodia Over Militants

A day after a Thai government agency announced that Thai “red-shirt” militants had trained in Siem Reap province to kill Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Thai government said yesterday it had not come to any conclusions about Cambodian involvement in the supposed plot.

The Thai Department of Special Investigations announced at a press conference on Monday that 39 Thai men were trained in arms use in Cambodia this summer for a mission to assassinate Thailand’s key public figures.

The DSI claimed it obtained evidence of these claims from 11 Thai men arrested in Chiang Mai last week on suspicion of being involved in the assassination plots.

The announcement has riled the Cambodian government, which says the DSI’s claims are “completely false.”

Yesterday, Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said Thailand had not actually accused Cambodia of being involved in the case.

“The Thai government has not made any conclusions about the incidents,” Mr Panitan said by telephone, adding that the DSI itself had not yet finished its investigations. “We do not accuse the Cambodian government of being involved.”

Mr Panitan also made it clear the DSI was not a mouthpiece for the Thai government.

“DSI officers just released the information from the interrogation of [the suspects],” he said.

“Thailand’s official position can only come from one of three sources: the prime minister, the foreign minister or me.”

News reports surfaced in Thailand yesterday claiming Mr Abhisit would question Prime Minister Hun Sen about the supposed red-shirts’ training in Cambodia during the Asean Summit in Hanoi later this month.

Mr Panitan, however, said there was no need for any discussion, as there were already agreements in place between Thailand and Cambodia for exchanging intelligence.

Cambodian officials continued yesterday to strongly reject the DSI’s claims, and questioned why they had only been informed of the accusations through the media.

“There are ambassadors in place already to pass information, if Thailand’s purpose is to solve the problem,” said Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers.

“[It seems like] the purpose is to accuse and brand Cambodia as a terrorist state, despite our hard work fighting against terrorism.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Thailand had yet to contact Cambodian officials about the DSI’s findings.

Asked whether Cambodia had investigated to find out whether there was any truth to the DSI’s claims, Mr Kuong said there was no need.

“In Cambodian territory, if any there was any strange activity, then Cambodian authorities stationed nearby would have been aware of what was going on [and notified the government],” he said.

“Cambodia completely rejects these false accusations made by Thailand.”

Mr Kuong said Mr Hun Sen had not yet scheduled a meeting with Mr Abhisit on the sidelines of the Asean summit, but would if the Thai premier requested to meet.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, lead researcher for political and strategic affairs at the Asean Studies Center, said regardless of whether the DSI’s claims were true or not, he believed Thailand could have dealt with the matter better through “quiet diplomacy.”

“This is a sensitive issue and could cause another blow to bilateral relations,” he said in an e-mail yesterday.

“DSI is the legacy of the anti-Thaksin campaign. It has been set up to eliminate the pro-Thaksin elements, as I believe,” he said, referring to fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

“Thus, it is undoubtedly [true]…the latest information released by the DSI would serve certain political purposes of the current government.”

Siem Reap provincial cabinet chief Ly Samreth laughed when he heard about the DSI’s claims that red-shirts received military training in his province.

“If I knew about it, I would imprison them. No one dares to do the training [here], because we are combating against terrorists,” he said.

Near Preah Vihear temple, where Cambodian and Thai troops have been involved in a standoff over border territory since July 2008, base commander Major General Srey Dek said yesterday the situation remained “normal.”

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