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Monday, November 16, 2009

Govt told to treat Cambodia subtly

Experts warn a more mature stance needed on the issues

The government must exercise "more maturity" in the ongoing diplomatic row with Cambodia, starting with changing its current positions against the neighbouring country, diplomatic experts say.

International affairs and legal experts warned Thailand could risk losing international creditability and long-term economic prospects should the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration continue with its current strategies including the planned termination of a number of agreements with Cambodia.

"The government has failed to use other solutions, except retaliation moves,"Chulacheeb Chinwanno, vice rector of Thammasat University, told a seminar yesterday.

"A refrain from such premature retaliation, should it adopt it, could demonstrate its maturity in dealing with the issue."

The diplomatic spat between the two nations has worsened since last month after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as his personal and economic adviser.

The Thai government has imposed a number of retaliatory moves including recalling Thai ambassador to Cambodia Prasas Prasasvinitchai. It is also in the process of terminating a memorandum of understanding on an overlapping maritime area.

The document was signed in 2001 when Thaksin was prime minister.

The government defended its plan to terminate the agreement, which is still pending parliament approval.

But Chumphorn Pachusanond, an international law expert at Chulalongkorn University's law faculty, said such a decision would not be easy to apply and it would bring joint oil and gas exploration efforts in the Gulf of Thailand back to square one.

"I want the government to consider this more profoundly," he said.

The agreement is a binding treaty in which Thailand would be required to propose an alternative measure should it want the termination, he said.

"Why do we want to make a mess out of this MoU? The Thai government has no reason to fear its existence," he said.

Should both nations go ahead with the MoU, they will mutually benefit from the exploration of hydrocarbon resources, he said.

Puangthong Pawakapan, from the political science faculty at Chulalongkorn University, said a halt to exploration could obstruct both countries' efforts to gain energy security and further affect economic development on both sides.

The government's other move to scrap a 1.4-billion-baht soft loan for a road project linking Surin to Siem Reap is also shortsighted because Thailand would be disadvantaged.

She said the project would help Thai businesses to transport their products to Cambodia and Vietnam and increase trade volumes for Thai industries.

The government's termination of the loan is unlikely to affect Cambodia which will be able to easily seek another loan from other lenders such as China or Japan, she said.

Thailand had also sidestepped softer, preliminary diplomatic approaches and adopted far too aggressive ones.

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