Despite Cambodia’s hope that the Thai Parliament would get bilateral border negotiations back on track by ratifying reports from previous Joint Border Commission meetings, the Thai government yesterday failed to table the reports for approval.
Thailand’s decision to hold off on yesterday’s expected parliamentary debate over the mutually-agreed minutes of three previous border meetings between the two nations came just days after they were approved by the Thai Cabinet and immediately drew the ire of Cambodian officials.
Without parliamentary ratification of the reports, no action can be taken to continue border demarcations.
A statement released yesterday by the Thai government’s public relations department said the consideration of the minutes would not go ahead until the non-government sector had been further consulted.
“Pending the parliamentary consideration, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would allow the civil sector to express opinions and exchange information towards the JBC meeting results so that all sides would be comfortable and clear with this issue,” the statement said.
Tensions between the two nations have flared during the past three weeks over a 4.6-square-kilometer parcel of land near Cambodia’s World Heritage-listed Preah Vihear temple that Thailand claims is inside its border. Cambodia rejects Thailand’s claims to the territory.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday that Thailand’s decision to wait for consultation was a clear sign that the Thai government was unwilling to quickly solve the border dispute between the two countries.
“Thailand always say they want a bilateral solution to the issue, but what they should be doing is performing actions,” Mr Kuong said. “For Cambodia, we have waited long enough for Thailand to act, but they want to delay and delay. This is why our side has gone one step ahead and called for a multilateral solution to the problem.”
Cambodia wrote Saturday to Pham Gia Khiem, the foreign minister of Vietnam, which currently holds the chair of Asean, requesting that the regional body help mediate Cambodian-Thai discussions on the border.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the Memorandum of Understanding signed with Thailand in 2000 on border issues clearly called for the two countries to cooperate and bring the dispute to a peaceful end.
“Any side who goes against these points is clearly going against the spirit of the MoU and does not want to bring a peaceful end to the dispute,” Mr Siphan said.
Mr Siphan said Cambodia had already given Thailand a very clear message: Any hope of bilateral negotiations hinged on the Thai Parliament’s ratification of minutes from previous border meetings.
Thai government officials could not be reached by telephone yesterday.
Pavin Chachavalpongpun, lead researcher for political and strategic affairs at the Asean Studies Center, said in an e-mail yesterday that he was unsure why Thailand had not tabled the three previous reports of the Joint Border Commission for approval.
“In looking closely, two of three documents were drafted under the Democrat government, in February and April 2009…[and] perhaps they may find some points that could be open to challenge from the opposition,” Mr Pavin said.
“Abhisit has to be careful that this will not give the opposition, or even the PAD, a chance to discredit his government. All eyes are now looking at the government’s moves. Discussing [the reports] in the parliament […] could make the government vulnerable.”