Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya visited the disputed boundary zone and the adjacent temple at Preah Vihear yesterday, meeting with top Cambodian military brass to discuss the recently cooled quarrel at the border, officials said.
Deputy RCAF Commander-in-Chief Chea Dara said the minister, along with about 14 other Thai officials, came to the temple agreeing to maintain the current break in fighting that has held since April.
“I told Mr Kasit that my premier [Hun Sen] wants peace and development along the border, and I also told him that the premier order the troops to defend our land and sovereignty and to not invade the other [country] even one centimeter,” General Dara said.
Mr Kasit’s visit comes more than two weeks after a Cambodian-ordered troop withdrawal and less than a week before an announced protest to be held on Saturday by a Thai political group near the temple.
General Dara said he mentioned the Cambodian troop draw-down to the foreign minister but said he received no response from Mr Kasit if Thailand would do the same.
The Foreign Minister began his morning visit by meeting with Thai troops stationed along the frontlines of the border. He then traveled up to the pagoda near the Preah Vihear temple and completed his trip by touring the cliff-top sanctuaries and the Cambodian marketplace currently being reconstructed at its base.
Defense Ministry spokesman Undersecretary of State Chhum Sucheat said Mr Kasit’s hour-long visit was a fruitful one, with military leaders pledging to reach a solution through political means. He said Mr Kasit requested permission to visit the Cambodian territory and stated he would urge the Thai Parliament to work through the Joint Boundary Commission, a bilateral group established to work toward boundary demarcation.
“They agree with the Royal Government of Cambodia to stop the fighting,” he said.
Meanwhile, media reports from Thailand stated the yellow-shirted People’s Alliance for Democracy plan to gather near the temple on Saturday for a demonstration against Cambodia’s claims to the area. The political group has long opposed Thailand tolerating the listing of Preah Vihear temple as a Unesco World Heritage Site solely under the management of Cambodia and, according to the English language newspaper the Bangkok Post, members accuse Mr Kasit of failing to protect Thai territory near the temple.
The scheduled protest at Preah Vihear this Saturday by the ultra-nationalist “yellow shirts” is reminiscent of the events that originally sparked the border row between the two nations. In July 2008, a group of Thai protesters congregated near the now-closed border gate at the foot of the temple’s stairway, with three of them eventually breaking through the cordon and entering the temple area on July 15.
In another report from the Bangkok Post, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva denied his country had lost ground in the disputed Thai-Cambodian border area near the temple.
Mr Sucheat said the plans by the Peoples’ Alliance for Democracy to protest were not discussed with Mr Kasit, but he added that Cambodia saw no problem with the demonstration as long as protesters stay on their side of the border.
“We don’t care if they are in the Thai side,” Mr Sucheat said. But if they try to come into Cambodia, “we don’t allow,” he added.