Two Thai military officers are to be decorated by the Cambodian government, in a ceremony to be held this morning at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. The awards will be presented by King Norodom Sihanouk, Ministry of Defense sources said.
General Mongkun Ampornpisit, supreme commander of the Royal Thai armed forces, and General Surayud Chulanont, commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Army, are to receive the Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Sahametrei, the highest honor bestowed by the government on foreign nationals.
Co-minister of Defense Prince Sisowath Sirirath said the honors are in recognition of the two officers’ “important role in promoting cooperation between our two governments.”
Referring to their handling of security issues along the Thai border, Sisowath Sirirath added: “This also reflects our appreciation for the humanitarian work [the officers] have done in assisting the resettlement of Cambodian refugees, especially throughout the 1980s.”
Colonel Weerasak Lomwong, a defense attache at the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh, agreed. “Generals Mongkun and Surayud have been working together with the Cambodian government for some time [in promoting cooperation] in military and social affairs,” he said.
During the visit, the Thai military officers will pay a courtesy call to Prime Minister Hun Sen and co-Defense Ministers Tea Banh and Sisowath Sirirath.
Despite recent allegations of border encroachment by Thailand and Vietnam, which were outlined in letters sent last month by the co-Interior ministers to the Defense Ministry, the delegation of high-ranking officers is not expected to discuss border issues, said Sisowath Sirirath, who described it as “a strictly ceremonial visit.”
A Thai embassy official added that any discussion of border issues would take place in the context of a joint committee on border affairs set up by the two governments two years ago.
Generals Mongkun and Surayud, who arrived Thursday evening, are scheduled to depart for Thailand at 3 pm today, following a gala reception at the Hotel Inter-Continental.