Thailand Protests Could Postpone Border Talks: Hor Namhong

Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong said he was concerned the protests and political instability in Bangkok would delay resolving the more than four-month-long border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia.

Speaking at Phnom Penh Inter­national Airport on Friday upon his return from a summit in Laos, Hor Namhong told reporters he worried that scheduled demarcation work near the Preah Vihear temple in December and meetings of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Border Commission and of the foreign af­fairs ministers in January could be canceled.

“I confirm that the complex situation in Thailand has a real, negative effect on the border negotiations between Cambodia and Thailand to solve the issue of demarcation,” he said in a news conference.

Further resolution of the dispute between the two countries is being held up by the Thai Parliament’s in­ability to meet, he added.

“[B]oth governments want to solve the border issue peacefully, and now it depends on the situation in Thailand…. How could the negotiations be taking place when even the Parliament cannot hold a meeting?” he said.

Anti-government demonstrations in Bangkok intensified over the past week with protesters seizing the city’s two main airports and promising to hold them until Prime Minister Somchai Wong­sawat re­signs. On Nov 24, protesters surrounded the Thai Parli­ament building, forcing the legislature to cancel its session.

Under the Thai constitution, Parl­iament must give its approval to all talks with a foreign government by first approving a negotiation framework, and then a second time by ratifying any treaty agreed upon. The legislature approved a negotiation framework in October, but it did not cover a small part of the agreement Thai and Cam­bodian officials struck Nov 12 in Siem Reap.

For that, the Thai Foreign Af­fairs Ministry must go back to the legislators.

“The Thai Parliament was scheduled to look at the remaining 1 percent [of the agreement it has not yet approved] this week, but obviously this had to be postponed to another date,” Virachai Plasai, dir­ector-general of the Department of Treaties and Legal Affairs at the Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry, said in an e-mail Wednesday.

Var Kimhong, Cambodian co-chairman of the JBC, echoed Hor Namhong’s concerns, saying the border negotiations will be affected if the political miasma in Bangkok continues.

Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry officials could not be reached for further comment Sunday. Chat­uront Chaiyakam, spokes­man for the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh, de­clined to comment.

 

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