Thai Minister’s Resignation Complicates Talks

Bilateral negotiations to resolve the military standoff along the border may prove more difficult with the resignation of Tej Bunnag as Thai foreign minister, Cambodian and Thai government officials said Sunday.

Tej Bunnag resigned Thursday evening after just 40 days in office amid political turmoil and protests in Bangkok.

Without Tej Bunnag at the helm of Thailand’s foreign ministry, bilateral talks could prove “difficult,” said Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Sin Bunthoeun.

Tej Bunnag had been chosen for the role of foreign minister in part because he is a personal friend to Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, a relationship that developed while both served as ambassadors to France in the mid-1990s, a Thai Foreign Ministry official said Sunday.

“Having had Bunnag as our foreign minister helped a lot, but now that we don’t have him anymore, we have to see…. The new foreign minister will probably not benefit from a personal relationship with Cambodian friends,” said the official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

However, Defense Ministry Secretary of State Neang Phat said Sunday the switch in Thai foreign ministers will have no effect on ne­gotiations because, right now, negotiations aren’t taking place.

Neang Phat added that a new date for military negotiations has yet to be set.

The nominee to be the next Thai foreign minister, Saroj Chavana­vi­raj, has said he is committed to following the timeframe set by the Joint Border Commission to re­solve the border standoff, the Bang­kok Post reported Sunday.

Regardless of who the foreign minister is, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said negotiations would continue with a joint task force resolving the military dispute and the Joint Border Com­mittee demarcating the border.

“Friendship is a friendship. International affairs is international affairs,” he said Sunday.

The standoff at Preah Vihear remained stable Sunday, said RCAF Major General Srey Dek, head of the temple operation.

He added that military officials broke ground Wednesday on a new RCAF Region 4 facility about 40 meters from the temple in Choam Ksan district to house troops stationed in the area.

The 15-building facility will accommodate 480 troops when it is completed, although Srey Dek and RCAF Region 4 Commander Chea Morn both declined to reveal its cost or opening date.

  (Additional reporting by Eang Mengleng)

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