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Friday, November 06, 2009

Thailand to pull out of maritime talks with Cambodia in protest

Nov 06, 2009 (BBC Monitoring via COMTEX) -- Bangkok, Nov. 6 Kyodo - A dispute between Thailand and Cambodia escalated Friday with Bangkok's threat to end talks with Cambodia on their disputed maritime border in the wake of Phnom Penh's recent appointment of ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser.

Meanwhile, fellow ASEAN member Singapore issued a statement Friday saying it is "concerned about the deteriorating relationship between Thailand and Cambodia." "It is not good for ASEAN. We hope that both our friends will keep the larger interest of ASEAN in mind and find a way to resolve their differences quickly in a spirit of good neighbourliness," it said.

Thailand's threat to pull out of maritime talks with Cambodia comes a day after it recalled its ambassador from Phnom Penh to protest against Thaksin, a fugitive from justice, being made Cambodia's economic adviser, calling it an insult to the Thai judicial system.

Cambodia recalled its ambassador from Bangkok in return.

On Friday, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said his ministry will seek abrogation of a memorandum of understanding on maritime boundary negotiations that the two countries signed in 2001 while Thaksin was still Thai premier.

He said Thailand's negotiating stance is known to Thaksin, so his new advisory position could leave Thailand at a disadvantage in the maritime talks with Cambodia, which have not made progress in the last eight years.

Thailand will instead explore other ways under international law of resolving the two countries' overlapping claims over about 26,000 square kilometres of the Gulf of Thailand, he said.

Kasit was speaking by telephone from Tokyo, where he is attending the Japan-Mekong summit meeting that is being participated in by both Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said Friday that if Cambodia continues to act badly towards Thailand, "then we must continue to downgrade relations and maybe seal off all border checkpoints." Koy Kuong, spokesman of Cambodia's Foreign Ministry, told Kyodo News that the appointment of Thaksin as an adviser is purely an internal affair of Cambodia and that revocation of 2001 MOU would slow down and further complicate the already slow and complicated negotiation process.

Regarding the threat to close the land border, the spokesman said such an action would benefit neither side and would actually be more costly to Thailand more than Cambodia.

He cited figures for two-way trade in 2008, which show exports from Cambodia to Thailand were worth only $14 million whereas imports from Thailand to Cambodia were worth $674 million.

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