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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cabinet endorses scrapping of MoU with Cambodia

By Piyanart Srivalo,
Samatcha Hoonsara
The Nation

The Cabinet yesterday endorsed Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's decision to scrap a 2001 memorandum of understanding with Cambodia signed by then-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, in which the countries stated their intention to jointly develop an overlapping area in the Gulf of Thailand.

The House and the Senate are expected to endorse the move which, according to recent polls, has boosted Abhisit's approval rating.

Article 190 of the Constitution requires House and Senate approval for any agreements and treaties made with foreign governments.

However, senators and MPs appear to have backed away from an earlier threat of closing the border, which would hurt Thailand more than Cambodia in monetary terms.

Speaking to reporters prior to his departure for Phuket, Abhisit criticised Cambodia for exaggerating the effect of the cancellation of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) by trying to link it to other bilateral agreements that could detrimentally affect the sovereignty of the two countries.

The move applies to the 2001 MoU on overlapping claims and nothing else, he said. He argued that it had resulted in a conflict of interest because Thaksin - the architect of the MoU - was now economic adviser to the Cambodian government.

The move to scrap the MoU is largely seen as retaliation by the Abhisit administration against Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's decision to appoint fugitive Thaksin as his economic adviser.

Thailand sees the move as a grave insult and interference in the country's internal affairs.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the decision to push for the scrapping of the MoU was in the interest of the country and maintained "There was nothing personal or emotional about the move."

A Thai court last year handed Thaksin a two-year jail sentence on corruption charges.

The MoU covers a 27,000-square-kilometre oil- and gas-rich zone that is claimed by both Cambodia and Thailand. Although it was signed shortly after Thaksin came into power, the two countries have not been able to make much progress because they could not agree on a comprehensive deal.

Thailand exported US$1 billion (Bt33.3 billion) worth of goods to Cambodia in the first eight months of this year, while Cambodian exports to Thailand totalled $39 million.

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