Thai Premier’s Ouster Inhibits Border Talks

Negotiations on the border dispute at the Preah Vihear temple, already hampered by weeks of protests in Bangkok, are likely to be disrupted further by the ousting of Thai Prime Minister Som­chai Wongsawat and several mem­­bers of the Thai government and Parliament Tuesday.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Chaowarat Chandeerakul will act as Foreign Affairs Minister until a new government is formed, said Virachai Plasai, director-general of the Department of Treaties and Legal Affairs at the Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry in Bangkok.

“There is effectively a foreign pol­icy vacuum in Bangkok, and there will be so until a new government with a proper mandate is in place,” said Tim Huxley, executive director of the Singapore-based International Institute for Strategic Studies-Asia.

Concerns expressed about the ne­gotiations by Foreign Affairs Min­ister Hor Namhong on Fri­day still stand, Council of Min­isters spokesman Phay Siphan said.

Hor Namhong told reporters that he worried border demarcation work with Thailand that was scheduled to start near the temple in mid-December and meetings to be held in January would be delayed.

“We have to have a competent body to talk and negotiate [with],” Phay Siphan said Tues­day, adding that the Cambodian government would wait for the next Thai government to form.

Demarcation work could theoretically begin because civil servants are still in place, Virachai said, but he added that some officials be­lieve they first need ap­proval from Parliament to start such work.

He also added that there is no guarantee that Foreign Affairs ministers from the two countries will be able to meet in January, as a new prime minister needs to be elected, a cabinet selected, and government policies approved by Parliament.

“It can take a month. It can take two months. But in the meantime, you have this acting government ensuring continuity,” Vir­achai said.

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